Google’s self-driving car is ready to take the wheel.
Google’s parent company, Alphabet, said Tuesday that its autonomous vehicle project is spinning off from its research lab X and will operate as a stand-alone company under the name Waymo.
Alphabet’s decision to spin out Waymo is a signal that the company thinks its self-driving technology has advanced beyond research project status and is ready for commercialization.
Autonomous vehicles are a hotly contested field of technology, pursued by other tech giants, promising upstarts, and traditional automakers — who all see the potential of self-driving cars to upend the automobile industry.
Advancements in sensor technology coupled with breakthroughs in machine learning — the ability of computers to learn from vast amounts of data and improve over time — mean driverless cars (essentially supercomputers on wheels) could become a regular sight on the roads over the next few years.
“As we look at this space and the opportunities ahead of us, we see so much,” said John Krafcik, CEO of Waymo. “We’re a new company, but we’ve been at this for a while.”
Waymo joins the roster of Alphabet companies, which includes Google. Krafcik said the new arrangement allows Waymo to tap into the infrastructure and resources of Alphabet with the feel of an independent venture-backed company. He said Waymo’s technology could have uses as varied as ride-sharing services and long-haul trucking.