Google branches off ‘Waymo’ unit as company to handle self-driving cars

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry looks at the computers inside one of Google's self-driving vehicles at the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship's Innovation Marketplace in Stanford, Calif., on June 23. Tuesday, Google announced that the vehicles will be handled by the new independent company Waymo, which branched off from Google's X unit. File Photo by U.S. Department of State/UPI

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., Dec. 14 (UPI) — Tech giant Google announced Tuesday that its self-driving vehicle unit will now be developed under a separate independent company called Waymo.

Waymo is moving from Google’s X unit, its so-called “moonshot division,” to its Alphabet unit and will be an independent company, officials said.

California-based Google has been developing an autonomous vehicle for many months, and said engineers have made substantial progress toward the final goal — introducing them to the public.

“We’re close to bringing this to a lot of people,” Waymo CEO John Krafcik said.

Google continues to test the vehicles in Washington, California, Arizona and Texas, but has not yet said when they might be accessible to the public.

Krafcik also revealed that the company gave a legally blind man, the friend of a Google engineer, the first ride in its autonomous vehicle in Texas a year ago. He said the car had no steering wheel and no pedals, and navigated successfully through normal traffic in Austin.

“We can imagine this in ridesharing, in transportation, trucking, logistics even personal use vehicles and licensing with automakers, public transport and solving the last mile” Krafcik added. “Self driving technology is awesome in all these categories.

“We are a self driving technology company. 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.”

Shares of Google stock (Nasdaq: GOOGL) climbed Tuesday by $7.44 to $815.34 by the end of regular trading.


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