Google parent company Alphabet Inc. is separating its self-driving car project into a new business called Waymo, seeking to sharpen its focus on changing the transportation industry.
John Krafcik, chief executive officer of Waymo, announced the move on Tuesday at an event in San Francisco. The company has been developing autonomous vehicle technology for more than six years, as part of its X research lab. Waymo is emerging from this research phase as a standalone business owned by Mountain View, California-based Alphabet.
“We will continue to have access to infrastructure and resources Alphabet provides, but in this new world as Waymo we also have this feeling like we are a venture-backed startup,” Krafcik said.
Alphabet’s self-driving car project has lost several top executives this year, and some members of the team were frustrated by the pace of progress, especially as traditional automakers and rivals like Uber Technologies Inc. and Tesla Motors Inc. develop and move forward with their own autonomous-vehicle systems. Still, Waymo is making some progress — the company plans to start a ride-sharing service with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NA minivans using semi-autonomous technology as early as the end of 2017, people familiar with the matter said.
At the event, Waymo provided details about its first fully autonomous trip, transporting a blind man around Austin, Texas, in October 2015.
“Waymo’s 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,” the company said in a statement.
(Updates with details of Waymo’s plans from third paragraph.)
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