On Wednesday, Waymo CEO John Krafcik announced that the company had undertaken its first fully driverless tests outside the the United States.
Waymo, formerly the Google Car project, showed off its “level 4” system at Italy’s Balocco Proving Ground, operated by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which has been providing Waymo with Chrysler Pacifica minivans to use as autonomous platforms. The demonstration took place on June 1, and no human drivers were behind the wheel.
Balocco is near Turin, Fiat’s longtime headquarters.
The demonstration took place under controlled circumstances, but it was Waymo’s first official foray outside the US, where its fleet of Pacificas is operating in several cities. The company expects to launch its ride-hailing service later in 2018 in Phoenix and recently announced that 62,000 Pacificas outfitted with Waymo’s laser-radar-based “driver” will join the fleet over time.
Waymo has also forged a partnership with Jaguar to bring 20,000 all-electric Jaguar I-PACE vehicles into the service.
According to the company, Waymo gave 70 rides at Balocco, with the Pacificas interacting with pedestrians, other vehicles, cyclists, obstacles and birds.
The company didn’t reveal its plans for European expansion, but Krafcik — speaking at an Automotive News conference in Turin — indicated that Waymo has the skill to expand into new markets and seek additional partners for its technology.
Waymo has been around since 2009 and has racked up over six million self-driven miles, but until 2017, it had been quiet about its plans to commercialize its technology. It’s widely considered to be the state of the art for autonomy that could achieve “level 5,” where no traditional human controls are required.
Krafcik, an auto industry veteran who joined Waymo in 2016, has lately been offering far more insight into the company’s plans. He now talks about four key areas: ride hailing, moving around goods, augmenting public transportation, and making Waymo’s tech available to partners through licensing deals.
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