Forbes Global 2000 Ranking: 24
Autonomy: Level 4
“Waymo will launch the first self-driving taxi services in the world, possibly in 2018.”
Google kicked off the first genuinely self-driving car project ever in 2009. You would argue with this bold statement, but please correct me if I am wrong: no one ever called their project as ‘Self-Driving Car Project’.
Waymo fleet ran 4 million kilometers since then. It doubled the closest competitor, Uber. (By the way, Uber could not make it to my list as it cannot make it to the Forbes list as well.)
Waymo plans to launch its autonomous ride-hailing service soon in collaboration with Fiat-Chrysler in Phoenix. Actually, Waymo announced the service to start in the end of 2017, and gave some demonstration rides to the press, yet the public launch did not still happen. Waymo looks like the most serious candidate for putting the first Level 4 self-driving vans on the road as a ride-hailing service, although it does not count as mass produced autonomous vehicles.
Now, hold tight: Waymo is producing its self-driving hardware in-house! LIDARs, Radars and full vision system, including modules and sensors. Waymo CEO John Krafcik stated, “In the early days of our project, our hardware was comprised of sensors and compute systems from a multitude of suppliers. Not only were they limited in capabilities, they were also expensive.” Thus, Waymo decided to custom-build its own hardware. I think, this is a wise decision by a non-car-manufacturer AV company. To develop its self-driving system independent from hardware and car platform will give Waymo flexibility and freedom that is vital at the dawn of any disruptive change.
Although, I mentioned independency, of course they are in partnership with industry giants: Fiat-Chrysler, Lyft, Intel and Avis. Sounds like strategic partnership, right?
I will cut it short: Waymo will launch the first self-driving taxi services in the world, possibly in 2018. However, the first autonomous car that you buy from a dealer will not carry a Waymo system on it. My conclusion is: Not likely