The cat is finally out of the bag. After seven years of teasing us around with bits and pieces about its ambitious self-driving car project, tech giant Google has finally announced its own self-driving car company, Waymo.

The company was unveiled by Waymo CEO John Krafcik on Tuesday in San Francisco. The launch clearly sends out a definite signal that the tech giant is confident about the progress it has made and is ready to show it to the world within the next few years. "We are getting close and we are getting ready," said Krafcik during the launch event.

According to Krafcik, the project that began its journey some seven years back has hit a key milestone, which will soon make fully autonomous cars cruising on public roads a common sight.

Commenting on the trip taken by Santa Clara Valley Blind Center's former director Steve Mahan, Krafcik defined it as an "inflection point" in the development of autonomous cars. This came almost a year before a truck from the famous beer company Budweiser, which was owned by Uber and equipped with self-driving technology, successfully completed a 120-mile long trip through the state of Colorado while being steered by a robot and a human sitting in the trailer's back.

According to Krafcik and several other promoters of self-driving cars, the tech has the potential to significantly reduce accidents and deaths on roads because robots can't get drunk, ignore the rules, or get easily distracted, like human beings.


When Google's self-driving cars project was still at its research-and-development stage, several inside sources had indicated that the vehicles will be on the roads by 2020. However, Krafcik has declined to give a concrete date or year and said "we are close to bringing this to a lot of people."

Instead of driving themselves and having to find a place to park, people will be chauffeured in robot-controlled vehicles if Waymo, carmakers and Uber realise their vision within the next few years.

Waymo, which is an innovative shorthand for "a new way forward in mobility," marks another progressive step towards revolutionising the way through which people get around. If Waymo, Uber, and carmakers are successfully able to realise their vision, then instead of driving to place themselves and go through the trouble of finding a parking space, people will be easily able to travel from one place to another in robot-controlled vehicles.

Google first began working on its self-driving technology about seven years ago in a secretive lab "X'', which was being headed by company co-founder Sergey Brin. Till now, Google's fleet of cars has been successfully able to cover more than 2.3 million miles in the Washington state, Austin, San Francisco Bay Area, and Arizona. In their journeys, they have involved in a total of 35 traffic accidents. But, according to Google, its self-driving vehicles were responsible only for one collision with a bus in the starting of the year.

Waymo will be functioning within Alphabet, Google's parent company, which came into existence last year with an objective of overseeing the company's far-flung projects that have no relation with Google's core business of online search and advertising. Since 2014, those far-flung projects have reportedly lost a whopping $8 billion, with a major chunk of it going into self-driving cars research.

As Waymo is an independent company now, it will also have to sustain the pressure of generating profits instead of just focusing on its research. Instead of manufacturing its own cars, the company plans to license its technology to automakers and trucking companies.

The starting of the year saw Waymo's precursor licensing its self-driving technology to Fiat Chrysler for 100 Pacifica minivans, which are currently in production. The financials of that particular deal haven't been publicly disclosed yet.

The mounting pressure and stress of churning out money resulted in various original engineers, who were working on the self-driving cars as a project that didn't have a mandate to turn a profit, hanging their boots. The people who ended up abandoning the project midway include former director, Chris Urmson, and a co-founder Anthony Levandowski, who has now shifted his loyalties to Uber and is working on a self-driving technology project for them.

[Top Image: AP Photo/Eric Risberg]

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