Don’t expect a Google-built car anytime soon.
The company, which has been developing self driving car technology for years, said on Tuesday that it has no plans to actually build cars itself.
“We are a self-driving technology company. We’ve made it pretty clear we are not a car company,” said John Krafcik, the CEO of Waymo, which Google officially spun out as an independent company on Tuesday.
“We’re not in the business of making better cars, we’re in the business of making better drivers. We’re a self-driving technology company.”
The comments were the strongest and clearest so far by the group, which has built its own pod-shaped prototype cars, that it does not intend to manufacture and sell its own line of vehicles.
While Google has never explicitly ruled out making its own self-driving car, it has frequently talked of partnering with automakers to bring autonomous driving technology to market.
Manufacturing cars is an expensive business, requiring giant facilities and complex supply chains, in which Google has no experience. Google’s new Waymo company may also believe it has a better chance of getting Detroit’s automakers to use its technology if it is not seen as competing directly with them by selling its own vehicle.
Google built its first self-driving car prototype in 2014, the “Koala” car, that has no steering wheel and brake pedals. Google co-founder Larry Page has been a vocal proponent of pursuing a fully self-driving car that doesn’t require a steering wheel or brake pedal, despite some pushback from members of the self-driving team.
As of June 30, Google’s fleet has consisted of 34 of the Koala vehicles as well as 24 Lexus SUVs retrofitted with Google’s autonomous tech.
Krafcik said that Waymo won’t initially focus on cars without a steering wheel or brake pedals due to the regulatory environment.
“It’s a regulatory-driven reason,” Krafcik said about keeping the driver controls. “As we’ve demonstrated with Steve’s first ride, our goal to get there without those controls. We don’t think the human should be asked to monitor the self-driving system. As it turns out… it is a requirement to have those controls.”
The Information’s Amir Efrati first reported Monday that Waymo is partnering with Fiat Chrysler to introduce a line of self-driving vehicles that could be used in a taxi setting by the end of 2017.
Krafcik said that Google was still in the “build phase” on Tuesday but did not provide further details about the partnership with Fiat.
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