Google’s Newly Named ‘Waymo’ Self-Driving Car Company Slows The Developmental Pace

Google’s Self-Driving Car Project – just renamed “Waymo” – is reportedly backing away from autonomous vehicles without any steering wheels or pedals into how its sensors can be incorporated into traditional vehicles.

The Information tech media website issued a lengthy report on Monday indicating Google’s parent company Alphabet is otherwise slowing down the rush toward ambitious self-driving plans. Of this, Google declined to comment.

As reported by Reuters today, Google Self-Driving Car Project’s npr called Waymo will be an independent unit within the parent company. Information was limited on what it will mean, but Alphabet executives suggested the company is close to bringing its autonomous driving to the public.

Google’s latest round of extensive road testing has involved Lexus SUVs and the company’s very own small pod-cars. This year, attention has been given to a deal made with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to place 100 of the new Pacifica minivans on roads with self-driving systems to speed up development of the sensor technology.

The thinking has been that Alphabet and Google need to join into the race for leadership in self-driving technology. This year, companies like Uber, Nvidia, Audi, and Volvo have launched campaigns to stand out in the field and position themselves as profitable leaders in the new marketplace.

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The growing competitive climate has caused Google co-founder Larry Page to rethink his company’s mission, according to The Information. What used to be a far-off testing project has been quickly evolving into a channel for commercializing a new technology. Page is concerned that Alphabet and Google could be left behind.

It may have had something to do with Chris Urmson leaving the company in August. Urmson was considered the father of Google’s self-driving car project for years.

According to the New York Times, Urmson had unhappy with the leadership of John Krafcik, formerly the head of Hyundai America, who was hired in 2015 to be chief of the Self-Driving Car Project. The Times report also said that Urmson had argued with Google co-founder Larry Page over where the division was headed.

Urmson may be starting his own autonomous car software firm, according to reports.

While most automakers and auto suppliers are taking a more conservative, long-term planning model with autonomous vehicle systems, there are several advocates out there for fully autonomous vehicles. Tesla Motors is going in that direction, as is Ford Motor Co. The state of Michigan just passed the nation’s first law that would allow fully autonomous vehicles to be tested without a driver by 2021.

Google may be more in league with Apple, which has been vague about its intentions to manufacture its own electrified, self-driving car. It might make more sense for these companies to supply self-driving car systems to automakers with the capital and design teams needed to get self-driving cars manufactured and sold on the market.

Detroit Free-Press, Reuters

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