Waymo is almost a decade old. What started as secretive Google X lab undertaking is now on the verge of being a commercial business, planning to launch in limited markets this year and expand in 2019.
Since 2009, Waymo has amassed over eight million self-driving miles, using a variety of platforms. Along the way, a who’s who of autonomous pioneers has worked on the project: Sebastian Thrun, Chris Umson, Anthony Levandowski. Spunoff from Alphabet, Google’s parent company, in 2016, Waymo is now run by John Krafcik, a seasoned auto-industry executive.
Morgan Stanley recently pegged Waymo’s potential value at a stunning $175 billion (the $50 billion-$75 billion range was what many analysts had previously suggested). That was due largely to Krafcik’s ambitious go-to-market objectives, which include not just an autonomous ride-hailing service of the type currently being piloted in Phoenix, AZ, but also a logistics/delivery arm and a technology licensing structure.
Having followed the Google Car project and later Waymo with a mix of enthusiasm and skepticism over the years, I’ve been captivated of late by how quickly Krafcik and his team have turned the grand experiment into a major business effort. A big question since around 2015 has been “What’s Waymo really going to do with all those millions of miles driven?”
Now we know.
At this point, it’s worth it to take a look back on how Waymo evolved. It’s the story of an absolute commitment to a future technology — Alphabet always wanted Waymo to get it right and was willing to patiently nurture and invest on a surprisingly long timeline.