Waymo’s autonomous system uses radar, camera and lidar sensors, and the company is developing primarily Level 4 and Level 5 technology. Nathaniel Fairfield, Waymo’s principal software engineer, said the sensors have been able to handle rough weather conditions.
The spinoff shows Alphabet believes there is a market for these cars, but it’s still uncertain whether consumers want self-driving technology.
“The question remains whether consumers are ready for this, since most prefer at least an option to take over the driving,” said Rebecca Lindland, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book.
Google has expanded its program over the past year, hiring more engineers while doubling its testing centers from two U.S. cities to four.
Although there have been some significant departures over the past year -- Chief Technical Officer Chris Urmson left in August after leading the project from its inception -- some new hires have pointed to the program's readiness to move past its experimental stage.
In July, the project appointed its first general counsel and a month later it hired former Airbnb executive Shaun Stewart as director of the project, with a mandate to commercialize the company's self-driving technology.
Krafcik, 55, the former Hyundai Motor America CEO and longtime Ford executive, joined Google in September 2015.
Reuters contributed to this report.