We've been hearing about Google's self-driving car ambitions for years, but lately the company seems to have slowed a bit, while would-be competitors like Tesla and NVIDIA are nipping at its heels. To give its efforts a boost (or possibly just make the expense and organization more manageable), the formerly Google-branded self-driving car project is being spun off into a separate company under the Alphabet parent company. The new venture is called Waymo, as in "a new way forward in mobility."
Though the initial press blitz for Waymo is all about positivity and new possibilities, the reality is probably a little more sobering. The Information reports that the reorganized spin-off will likely abandon Google's former vision for a completely self-contained system within a specially-built car. Instead, Waymo will probably focus on bringing the autonomous driving tech that Google has worked on to more conventional car models from existing manufacturers, adding self-driving capabilities to cars that can also be driven manually. The "no steering wheel" concept seems to be rapidly fading, for better or worse. Many of the engineers and managers that started at Google's self-driving car project have been hired by the likes of Uber, or simply left to start their own self-driving ventures.
Waymo's future is uncertain, since the market for autonomous car tech is still in its early days, and even the legality of self-driving cars is often less than perfectly clear-cut. We'll have to wait and see if the industry crystalizes around one or more companies... and whether Alphabet is a part of it at all.