Dec 14, 2016

Google spins off self-driving car division, signalling new direction

Google's self-driving cars have graduated from the company's "moonshot division", X labs, to become a full-blown subsidiary of umbrella group Alphabet, called Waymo.

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The new company, headed by X alumni John Krafcik, is charged with turning the self-driving car technology that Google has been developing behind closed doors into a viable business for the future.

How that will actually happen, though, Waymo has apparently not yet decided. Mooted revenue streams include Uber-style driverless ride sharing, disrupting the trucking and logistics sector, fitting self-driving technology into public transit vehicles, improving the "last mile" of postal delivery or even simply licensing the software to car manufacturers who will sell cars to end users.

"Self-driving technology is awesome in all these categories," said Krafcik at an event to announce the launch of Waymo. But one thing Waymo won't be doing is building its own cars – a step back in ambition from the highest goals of the X labs team.

"We are a self-driving technology company," Krafcik said. "We've been really clear that we're not a car company, although there's been some confusion on that point. We're not in the business of making better cars. We're in the business of making better drivers."

Photograph: Eric Risberg/AP

theguardian
Alex Hern