Google's Self-Driving Car Project to be Converted into a Business
Last month, its parent company, Alphabet Inc., turned the Google X project into a standalone business. Some analysts predicted the move earlier this year, when the project’s finances were separated from Google X.
It has been over half a decade since Google officially announced its plans to develop and commercialize self-driving cars. Before this milestone, the tech giant was working on the project quietly, with help from winners of the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge: Sebastian Thurn (co-inventor of Google Street View), Chris Urmson and Mike Montemerlo.
A lot has happened since the inception of the project.
The establishment's fleet of driverless cars have registered over two million miles and several leading automakers, such as Ford, Uber and Nissan, have revealed plans to develop their own autonomous vehicles. Now, Google is ready to take things to the next level. Last month, its parent company, Alphabet Inc., turned the Google X project into a standalone business. Some analysts predicted the move earlier this year, when the project's finances were separated from Google X.
"The car is partway through what we call a graduation," said John Krafcik, chief executive of Google's self-driving car division. "We are moving out of X … The self-driving car project, like Verily, will soon be its own independent entity in the world."
Fully Autonomous Goals
The announcement solidifies the company's commitment to pioneer the autonomous car sector. Many have questioned Google's intentions for its mysterious driverless vehicle project, because it has a reputation for prematurely pulling the plug on some of its most highly anticipated offerings before they hit mainstream markets (case in point: Google's ambitious modular smartphone project, Project Ara). Although Google has not released its self-driving car business model, it is safe to conclude that the company intends to generate revenue (and in the future, profit) from the independent entity.
Furthermore, Astro Teller, captain of Moonshots for Alphabet's X, confirmed that the establishment plans to release fully autonomous models from the start. This is a completely different approach, compared to other competitors that are interested in slowly releasing vehicles with semi-autonomous technology. Just to be clear, the type of driverless car that Teller referenced is one without a steering wheel and a manual breaking system.
As a standalone business, Google intends to sell its driverless offerings to consumers for private driving and possibly ridesharing purposes. This raises the possibility of the company forming its own ridesharing program for its fleet of autonomous vehicles, which would then force the group to compete with ridesharing veterans Uber and Lyft (backed by Ford); as well as Elon Musk's Tesla, who also recently announced plans to launch his own ridesharing service. But before Google enters the ridesharing battlefield, the tech brand will first ensure that passengers can get to their destination safely.
"The world is going to have cars that are sold to individuals and cars that are shared by individuals, and which one Alphabet does, we have our thinking on it. But right now we're very focused on safety," highlighted Teller.
Lastly, Teller explained that the brand's vehicles will likely be slated for an initial commercial release to cities with optimal conditions for autonomous cars. This includes locations with predictable climate, reliable road infrastructure and favorable self-driving laws.