Google's Waymo to start testing autonomous vans

By Paul Welitzkin in Detroit, Michigan(China Daily)
Updated: 2017-01-10 07:32:15

John Krafcik, CEO of Waymo, introduces a Chrysler Pacifica hybrid at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, on Jan 8, 2017. [Photo/Agencies]

Waymo, the autonomous car unit of Google holding company Alphabet Inc, will begin test-driving self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans later this month on public roads in Arizona and California, CEO John Krafcik said.

At the AutoMobili-D exhibit at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Sunday, Krafcik said Waymo's "mission is to make it safe for people to move around".

Krafcik said Waymo is developing advanced sensor technology that will make self-driving vehicles safe for use in just about all conditions. He noted that Waymo has reduced the cost of Lidar, which scans for obstacles by about 90 percent from its $75,000 level of a few years ago.

"We're serious about creating fully self-driving cars that can help millions of people, and to do that we have to oversee both the self-driving software and the self-driving hardware," said Krafcik, who formerly was the CEO of Hyundai Motor America.

Earlier, Chris Thomas, a founding partner of Fontinalis Partners, a Detroit- and Boston-based venture capital fund, said next-generation mobility is poised to affect virtually every person in the world.

He defines next-generation mobility as the "efficient movement of goods, services and people across all modes of transportation through new technology solutions".

Examples include autonomous vehicles, car-sharing services like Uber Technologies Inc and Didi Chuxing and logistics software that can make air cargo volume more efficient than its current 40-45 percent level.

Thomas said China is a participant in next-generation mobility development and said China can use this technology to address the country's pollution problem.

Thomas said his firm hasn't made any investments in Chinese companies yet. "The majority of our investments are in the North American market. We are also deployed in Tel Aviv and London. But, China is a possibility in the near future."

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