Waymo – What are you made of; not drivers

At the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show Waymo’s CEO, John Krafcik said that Self-driving cars are getting closer and that they are looking at self-driving trucks as well. At about the same time that Google was renaming their company, Alphabet Google self-driving cars picked the name Waymo for its autonomous driving company.

Waymo means What are you made of, but the one thing Waymo doesn’t want to be made of is drivers.

Krafcik said that Waymo had driven 4,000,000,000 miles of driverless cars on public roads, but the simulated driving is just as important.

The most experienced drivers are the goal for Waymo, not actually becoming an automobile company. That experience is coming through autonomous vehicles. In the last six months, Waymo has driven one million miles, compared to about 18 months for their first million miles. Car companies and tech companies are continuing to accelerate the knowledge and practicality of real-world driving. Waymo is also looking at putting the same applications in Class A trucks.

The learning curve from the more than 25,000 virtual self-driving cars that are created every day, along with the driverless cars on public roads will accelerate. People are willing to help; over 10,000 people agreed to help Waymo, and now Waymo is asking people in Arizona if they want to be an early rider, riding in a car with no one in the driver’s seat.

Krafcik says that Waymo’s business model is different from most companies, “We’re in a very privileged space. We’re not a traditional auto company looking for a stock market multiple.” As privileged as Waymo is, they still have the same problems in driving when it comes to driving in the snow. Waymo is currently working with FCA in the Chrysler Pacifica but is talking to other OEMs.

Transportation service is one area of interest and scaling in cities is an objective. The ability to be completely autonomous, not relying on new infrastructure change in each city is the goal. Waymo is not relying on V2V like other companies, We’re not saying V2V is a great thing, but if you make your autonomous vehicle reliant and something goes wrong with that V2V you’ve got a problem. You’ve got to make the car autonomous.”

While there is a lot of software involved, the home-grown hardware is just as important in getting the cost down and the accuracy; lidars, vision systems, radars.

In the end, the software will be driving all of us.

About the Author:

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY), Women's World Car of the Year (WWCOTY), and the Concept Car of the Year.

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