Google's self-driving unit sues Uber
Waymo, Google's self-driving car project, has sued Otto, its counterpart at Uber, and its co-founder Anthony Levandowski, for "downloading 14,000 highly confidential and proprietary design files" during his previous stint at Google. Otto's LiDar (a radar system) circuit board allegedly has a "striking resemblance" to Waymo's. Waymo said the decision was difficult as "parent company Alphabet has long worked with Uber in many areas".
Google sets up self-driving car unit as separate company
At a press conference in San Francisco today, Google announced that it was setting up its self-driving car unit as a separate company. The company, dubbed Waymo, will be set up under Google's parent company, Alphabet Inc. The name of the company, "Waymo" is derived from Google's mission of finding a "new way forward in mobility."
Waymo's quest for better drivers
"We've been really clear that we're not a car company although there's been some confusion on that point. We're not in the business of making better cars. We're in the business of making better drivers," said Waymo CEO John Krafick at the press conference.
The changes leading up to the creation of Waymo
Google, over the course of this year, had introduced several changes in its self-driving unit. Towards the beginning of the year, Google appointed ex-Hyundai North America executive John Krafick as the CEO of its self-driving car project. Later in the year, Google appointed ex-Airbnb and TripAdvisor executive Shaun Stewart, hinting at something big in the project. John Krafick will now head Waymo.
Breakthroughs in the self-driving field by Google
In Austin last year, Google's self-driving car unit's team, now Waymo, conducted the first fully driverless ride on public roads. This historic event included Steve Mahan, a legally blind friend of Waymo engineer Nathaniel Fairfield, who rode solo in the test vehicle. Mahan had previously been in Google test vehicles, but always with escorts. The vehicle navigated four-way stops, pedestrians and narrow lanes.
Current projects undertaken by Waymo
Earlier in the year, Google's self-driving unit announced a 100 car pilot project with Fiat Chrysler, and the cars are currently being readied for road tests. Krafick further said that Waymo was currently working in tandem with Chrysler to put next generation sensor load outs in the Chrysler Pacifica. Waymo will further team up with Chrysler for a ride-sharing service deployment.
Waymo's ride-sharing service to be operational in 2017
Waymo's ride-sharing service deployment, in partnership with Chrysler, is expected to be rolled out for commercial use as early as end 2017. The service would involve the use of semi-self-driving Chrysler Pacifica vans.
Waymo looks to the future
While Waymo is going strong, its head of technology Dimitri Doglov said that there's plenty of room for improvement including making better maps, improving navigation and making rides smoother. Krafick spoke of potential business opportunities in driverless cars including ridesharing, logistics, trucking, public transportation, personal cars and licensing with car manufacturers. He further emphasized that Waymo was more concerned with self-driving technology than cars.