Waymo, a Google Spinoff, Ramps Up Its Driverless-Car Effort
Waymo, the driverless-car company that was spun out of Google, has pushed farther ahead in self-driving cars than any of the automakers or other technology companies trying to pioneer the field.
It has been working on its software, sensors and other gear for nine years. It has 600 or more test vehicles operating in at least four cities around the country. Its vehicles have racked up more than five million miles of testing on public roads.
Now, even as a cloud hangs over driverless-car testing after a rival’s fatal crash, Waymo is vowing to shift its operations into overdrive. In the next two years, it intends to put thousands of self-driving cars on the road in selected cities to ferry not its own engineers but ordinary people from place to place.
In Phoenix, where it plans to introduce the service first, Waymo predicts it will carry paying customers almost anywhere they want to go in an area covering 100 square miles, the company’s chief executive, John Krafcik, told reporters Tuesday on the eve of the New York International Auto Show.
“Members of the public will be able to take our cars anywhere in our service area,” Mr. Krafcik said. “We will be driving everywhere — dense, urban centers, high-speed roads, low-speed roads, suburbs. There’s every driving scenario to be imagined.”
The company said it planned to buy as many as 20,000 electric cars from Jaguar Land Rover and outfit them with the radars, cameras and sensors it has developed to enable the vehicles to drive themselves on public roads. The deal could be worth $1 billion.
It’s an audacious vision that goes far beyond even the most optimistic plans of its rivals. General Motors, for example, also intends to start a ride service that uses robotic cars that have no driver. But G.M. says its service won’t get off the ground until late 2019 — a time when Waymo said its fleet would be providing as many as one million rides a day.