Waymo’s Fitzgerald envisions multiple jobs for self-driving cars

2018.10.12 16:22:39 | 2018.10.15 09:43:39

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Cars will no longer necessarily be owned but shared to play a multi-functional role in a society of driverless transportation services in the near future to make the society greener and safer, said Paige Fitzgerald, head of Strategic Partnerships & Business Development at Waymo, the self-driving technology unit under Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc.

“We’re building the best driver so why not give that driver multiple jobs?” Fitzgerald said Thursday in Seoul during a speech at the 19th World Knowledge Forum (WKF), an annual forum hosted by South Korea’s largest business media Maekyung Media Group.

“Think of Waymo as a technology platform that can be deployed across many transportation applications, from ride-hailing to trucking and delivery to public transit,” she said.

Waymo has already started working with Walmart on grocery delivery and pickup in Phoenix, Arizona. The company is also in talks with local hotels to develop a transportation solution for out-of-town guests that would replace the inefficient and underutilized hotel shuttles. It is also getting ready to roll out its own fleet of autonomous trucks.

Waymo started as Google’s self-driving car project in 2009 and was spun off into an independent company in 2016. It is now valued at $175 billion and is the dominant leader in self-driving technology, with an unrivaled number of patents related to autonomous driving.

Waymo recently announced it has accumulated over 10 million self-driving miles (16 million kilometers) on public roads across 25 test cities. The more miles and samples a car racks up, the more able it is to respond to different circumstances. According to Fitzgerald, Waymo cars can now deal with various unexpected situations on the road, such as cars coming from the wrong side of the road on a one-way street or a person in a wheelchair crossing the street.

Waymo earlier this year expanded its fleet of hybrid minivans from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles with plans to roll out its first public ride-hailing service later this year. It also purchased 20,000 Jaguar Land Rovers to bring to the streets the world’s first self-driving fully-electric vehicles by 2020.

Waymo wants to exploit the vast potential of shared mobility in transforming the everyday life. “Cars are the second-most expensive purchase after buying a home, yet 95 percent of the time they are left idle,” Fitzgerald said.

“With Waymo, a small fleet of cars can serve an entire community of users,” she said, pointing out how this new technology can help ease congestion and turn parking lots into parks. “We see ourselves as enablers, not disrupters.”

By Oh Chan-jong and Kim Hyo-jin

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