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article imageGoogle's self-driving car project becomes a company - Meet Waymo

By Karen Graham     Dec 15, 2016 in Business
After seven years, Google's self-driving car project has become an independent company under the Alphabet umbrella. The company, called Waymo signals Google's confidence that it will be able to bring autonomous vehicles to the masses in a few short years.
"We are getting close and we are getting ready," Waymo CEO John Krafcik said Tuesday after unveiling the company's identity, according to Fox News.
The name "Waymo" was chosen because it is derived from the company's mission of finding "a new way forward in mobility.” And to kick-off its mission statement of moving forward, Krafcik announced a key milestone had been reached last year in having self-driving cars on public roads.
In October 2015, a legally-blind man took a ride around neighborhoods in Austin, Texas in a pod-like car with no steering wheel or brake pads without another human in the car with him. Krafcik said this was the first time one of the project's cars had given a passenger a ride without a human on hand to gain control of the car if needed.
The passenger was Steve Mahan, the former director of the Santa Clara Valley Blind Center. Krafcik called Mahan's trip an "inflection point" in the development of autonomous vehicles. The trip by Mr. Mahan also came a year before Uber's self-driving Budweiser beer truck completed its 120-mile trip through Colorado while being steered by a robot with a human riding along in the trailer, reports Sci-Tech Today.
The safety of autonomous cars has many advocates in the industry with backers believing the technology will reduce the number of deaths on our highways each year. They point out that robotic technology doesn't get distracted or drunk and doesn't ignore motor vehicle laws like humans sometimes do.
Google's autonomous cars are still in the development stage but many leaders say we can expect to see the vehicles on the road by 2020. Krafcik declined to update the timetable, only saying, "we are close to bringing this to a lot of people."
Waymo, along with Uber, shares the vision of having robot-controlled cars chauffeuring people around our city streets, leaving behind the worry of driving themselves and trying to find a parking place. Krafcik said the company envisions the technology being used in "ridesharing, in transportation, trucking, logistics even personal use vehicles and licensing with automakers, public transport and solving the last mile”
Krafcik also made a point to say that Waymo is not a car company, reports TechCrunch. "We are not in the business of making better cars," Krafcik said. "We are in the business of making better drivers." Focusing on research and technology, Waymo plans to license its technology to traditional automakers and truck manufacturers.
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