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Google Spins Off Self-Driving Unit, Prepping Ride-Hailing Service

December 13, 2016

Photo courtesy of Google.
Photo courtesy of Google.

Google has formed a mobility company called Waymo to house its development of self-driving technology and may be laying the groundwork to roll out a ride-hailing service as soon as late 2017 in a partnership with Fiat Chrysler, according to various reports.

Waymo — a name derived from Google's mission to find a "new way forward in mobility" — will be headed up by John Krafcik, Hyundai Motor America's former CEO.

In a blog posted on Waymo's website, he wrote that the company is shifting its focus from building driverless cars to developing sensors, software and technology it will then license to automakers and ride-hailing firms.

"We can see our technology being useful in personal vehicles, ridesharing, logistics, or solving last mile problems for public transport," Krafcik wrote in a Medium post. "In the long term, self-driving technology could be useful in ways the world has yet to imagine, creating many new types of products, jobs, and services."

Google parent Alphabet, Inc. plans to start a ride-sharing service with Fiat-Chrysler that will deploy a semi-autonomous version of Chrysler Pacifica minivans as early as the end of 2017, Automotive News reported.

Earlier this year, Google entered into a partnership with Fiat-Chrysler to test its self-driving technology in 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans.

Google had been operating the self-driving unit under the umbrella of parent Alphabet as Google X.

Krafcik said the company began testing the first fully autonomous car, which has no steering wheel or pedals on public roads in Austin, Texas, last year. Blind man Steve Mahan rode one of the self-driving prototypes in public traffic on Oct. 20, 2015. Google has logged more than 2 million miles with its autonomous vehicles, mostly in Mountain View, Calif., near the company's headquarters.

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