Google Could One Day Sell Waymo to Cities for Autonomous Buses


Alphabet, the parent company of Google, held a teleconference Thursday afternoon to announce its earnings for the first quarter of 2017. Spoiler alert: the tech behemoth is doing very well! The company’s total revenue was about $24.8 billion — and if the company’s comments on Thursday are an indication, a good chunk of that money is set to get reinvested into Waymo, Google’s autonomous car company.

What’s more, Google wants to do more than just turn Waymo into the leading choice for autonomous car software — it’s thinking ahead about how Waymo could radically alter public transpiration as well.

Google reiterated its commitment to Waymo several times during the conference call Thursday. Waymo just began commencing test trials for its autonomous driving technology in Phoenix, Arizona this week. That testing is open to the public — Phoenix residents can sign up to ride around in Chrysler Pacifica minivans fitted with Waymo software, and be driven around endlessly by an A.I.-powered vehicle. The program costs nothing, and participants can take as many rides as they want.

Ruth Porat, the CFO for both Alphabet and Google, specifically mentioned Waymo as one of the beneficiaries to receive increased investment as a result of the successful increase in revenue.

Although it will still be quite a while before Waymo — and autonomous cars at large, for that matter — enters the market as a commercial software bought and installed by automobile manufacturers in various car models, Google is pretty bullish about the potential for Waymo to become a leader in the future of autonomous cars, and for good reason: The company’s experienced a surge of success in just a short time. the company is experiencing lower rates of disengagement (where a human driver is forced to take over the control of an autonomous car) than most of its competitors who are conducting testing in the state of California.

“We feel Waymo is a great example of a graduate from [Google] X,” said Porat. She described it as a “leader of safety” and called its commitment to regulatory standards a foundation of success.

While Waymo has a strong relationship with Fiat Chrysler and is currently in discussion with other manufacturers to expand its partnerships, Porat dropped a pretty interesting nugget: Google is thinking about “opportunities to work with cities to address public transpiration.” It’s unclear how much progress has been made on that front, but it seems Google is interested in potentially selling Waymo to urban communities interested in developing autonomous buses for mass transit.

A move like that would basically hype up an already-fierce competition with Tesla, which announced last year its intentions to unveil an autonomous electric bus sometime in 2017.

There’s no reason to think the company would simply stop there, too — if Waymo is interested in reshaping mass transit as a service delivered through automation, it’s likely it would look to creep it software into other kinds of public services as well, such as garbage collection, or train systems.

Of course, it’s too early to tell how this might unfold. Google is “excited about the upside from Waymo,” said Porat, but of course that would be the company line — Google owns Waymo.

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