Waymo’s Journey From Project To Company
Waymo has had a long journey from Google side project to its own viable company. In 2009, Google began testing driverless car technology with 100-mile routes driven by autonomous Toyota Priuses. In 2015, the project sparked buzz when Steve Mahan, a member of the Santa Clara Valley Blind Center, completed a trip alone on a public road in Austin, Texas in one of the company’s driverless vehicles. Since the project began, Waymo’s autonomous vehicles have driven three million miles on various city streets. Google’s successful experiments caused Waymo to form its own company in 2016 to better focus on establishing their technology for the masses.
A Partnership With The Largest Auto Retailer
AutoNation is the nation’s largest auto retailer with over 350 vehicle franchises across 16 states. They have signed a multi-year deal with Waymo to service and maintain the company’s fleet of autonomous Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans. The Chrysler Pacifica is pivotal to Waymo’s new Early Riders Program, another test driving project where individuals in Phoenix, Arizona can use the use the minivans for various transportation needs while providing feedback on the experience with the vehicle. In addition to the Chrysler Pacifica, AutoNation has also committed to offer services to other brands that Waymo may also start to pick up. This is a major development in the emerging technology of self-driving cars. What does this agreement possibly mean for the future?
1. Driverless Vehicles Are Taken Seriously By Major Players
This new partnership with AutoNation is not the only collaboration Waymo has recently entered into. 2017 has been a busy year for Waymo. Earlier this year, Avis agreed to also service and maintain the Chrysler Pacifica, and the company also inked a deal with Lyft that could bring self-driving technology to the ride-hailing network. These partnerships show that well-known brands are taking this emerging technology seriously, which means their customers have a higher chance of doing the same thing.
2. Safety Is A Priority
AutoNation CEO and President, Mike Jackson, remarked that AutoNation and Waymo have a shared goal of keeping people safe “whenever they are in a vehicle.” For Waymo to reach out to AutoNation, an auto retailer that promises repairs every 12 months or 12,000 miles (whichever comes first) shows they are taking driver safety seriously. Since autonomous vehicles have been seen as the new technology milestone in driving, there has always been a question of driver safety. This move by Waymo shows consumers they care about the state of their cars and are willing to partner with the largest auto retailer to do it.
3. Waymo’s Reach Is Expanding
Lyft is the second largest ride-hailing company behind Uber, and AutoNation works across 16 states. These large-scale partners create an avenue for Waymo to expand beyond Arizona and move into other regional markets. Lyft could allow Waymo to begin some testing trials with drivers in some of their most popular hubs, easing the introduction to self-driving cars to the masses.
The Importance of Safety And Credibility
The AutoNation deal is the third of the year for Waymo, a company busy establishing credibility with potential consumers. This partnership makes it likely that Waymo will venture into the ride-hailing market. In a New York Times article, Jackson discussed the importance of proactive and preventative maintenance to allow driverless vehicles to be on the road longer for usage by services like Lyft.
These developments reveal Waymo is not far from commercializing their vehicles and moving beyond test driving. The public is still on the fence about autonomous cars, but partnerships with well-known brands like AutoNation puts Waymo in a position to address their concerns and engage them in the emerging technology of driverless cars.