Google’s subsidiary Waymo is considered a market leader for a technology that is not marketable yet. That means Waymo is closest to commercializing autonomous driving, according to several research studies. The company plans to set up on-demand transportation services as a competitor for conventional cabs. Originally based in California, Google/Waymo got the authorization to take the project to Arizona.
Initially Waymo wanted to build its own cars but eventually moved away from the idea. Today Waymo’s fleet consists of Fiat-Chrysler (FCA) models, more precisely of Chrylser Pacifica vehicles. Additional collaborations with Jaguar-Land-Rover and Honda are following the same model. It’s likely that the Jaguar models cover the luxury segment, FCA the mid-range segment and Honda the compact car division. Lately Waymo ordered 62,000 new Chrysler Pacifica vehicles that are currently being equipped with autonomous car technology. Waymo said nothing about acquisition and modification costs, but industry experts estimated the costs at about 31 billion USD – for modification purposes only!
Waymo & Uber?
Meanwhile Uber raised its hand and proposed a collaboration with Waymo, which seems utopian after the 2 companies settled a legal dispute forcing Uber to pay Waymo 2.6 billion USD. Subject of the lawsuit: stolen trades secrets, in this case information about a Lidar.
Moreover, Uber has to take responsibility for a fatal crash in Arizona, where an autonomous car ran over a woman due to a deactivated emergency brake system. Therefore, Uber aborted all testing activities in Arizona and won’t resume testing in the state. The incident cost a lot of trust in the technology – this led to stricter testing regulations with the USA.
When is the time?
It is questionable that Waymo will be able to offer an autonomous transport service in 2018. The modification of more than 60,000 FCA vehicles is expected to take more than 1 year. However Waymo should not take the foot off the gas, main competitor GM plans to mass produce a highly-autonomous vehicles (Level 4) in 2019.
About the author:
David Fluhr is journalist and owner of the digital magazine “Autonomes Fahren & Co”. He is reporting regularly about trends and technologies in the fields Autonomous Driving, HMI, Telematics and Robotics. Link to his site: http://www.autonomes-fahren.de