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Google Launches Waymo, a Separate Self-Driving Car Entity for Autonomous Mobility

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【Summary】Earlier this week, the business announced that its self-driving car project is now an independent company under the Alphabet umbrella. Called Waymo, the newly formed business will focus on addressing mobility issues using driverless platforms.

Original Michael Cheng    Dec 14, 2016 5:45 AM PT

In the past eight years, Google, a true pioneer of self-driving technology, has been quietly developing fully autonomous vehicles under its secretive research unit, (Google) X. Many people have questioned the company's plans for the technology, implying that the establishment was lagging behind in the race to build driverless vehicles.

After months of expanding pilot programs around the US and over two million miles of recorded self-driving data, the time as finally come for the tech giant to reveal a new milestone in its well-documented journey to release SAE L5 driverless cars to mainstream markets. Earlier this week, the business announced that its self-driving car project is now an independent company under the Alphabet umbrella. Called Waymo, the newly formed business will focus on addressing mobility issues using driverless platforms.

"It's an indication of the maturity of our technology," said John Krafcik, Waymo's chief executive, during a press conference in San Francisco. "We can imagine our self-driving tech being used in all sorts of areas."

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Expanding to New Markets

The inception of Waymo comes with new information that was previously non-existent during initial stages of development under Google's research lab. Krafcik mentioned that the company will be focusing on technology powering the vehicles. This means that those iconic "koala" cars won't be available for purchase anytime soon. Instead, consumers will likely see Waymo's self-driving software in cars released by automakers that are interested in autonomous fleets.

At the moment, there are numerous businesses that could potentially benefit from Waymo's reliable driverless platform. Establishments that specialize in ride-sharing, car-sharing, public transportation and commercial trucking could use the company's software to streamline their goals. One of the main hurdles that startups in the field are fixated on overcoming is building autonomous software to support advanced mobility services. Using Waymo's platform, which leverages "unlimited" infrastructural components and resources from Alphabet, groups could focus on secondary stages of development, such as custom features for individuals with disabilities and educational programs to boost awareness and safety.

Now that Waymo is navigating the nascent industry on its own, analysts predict that it will take a more aggressive approach in creating new partnerships, licensing models and expanding to untapped markets.

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Fiat Chrysler and Waymo

One of the first automaker to partner with Waymo is Fiat Chrysler. The duo is currently working on equipping new sensors on a fleet of Chrysler Pacifica minivans. If successful, the vessels will receive semi-autonomous capabilities during the "build phase" on the assembly floor. This is in line with Waymo's plans to enter the competitive ride-sharing sector with the car manufacturer in 2017. The two groups committed to a 100-car deal in May, which is now reportedly being prepared for road testing.

"We're not in the business of making better cars. We're in the business of making better drivers," highlighted Krafcik. "The next step will be to let people use our vehicles to do everyday things like run errands, commute to work, or get safely home after a night on the town."

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