Waymo's decision to build its own self-driving car technology platform has its competitors watching to see whether the company can carve out a position somewhere between automaker and auto supplier.
The strategy makes Waymo, which was spun off from Google at the end of last year, different from a Tier 1 supplier, which sells parts directly to automakers, because integrating the platform into vehicles will take a lot more coordination than simply shipping a part to the manufacturer to plug into their already-designed cars. But Waymo won't go as far as to make its own cars, leaving it hovering in a gray area.
"We don't know exactly what their strategy is," said Dan Galves, vice president of communications at Mobileye. "If they're really trying to just sell their autonomous system to automakers and have automakers integrate it into their vehicles, that's direct competition to us."
At the Detroit auto show this month, Waymo CEO John Krafcik said the company has been developing a self-driving platform in-house. Waymo isn't narrowing down what kinds of vehicles the platform could be used in -- Krafcik has said the company is exploring opportunities in personal transportation, ride-hailing, trucking and logistics and licensing its platform to automakers.
But he made it clear that wherever the technology ends up, it will be made by Waymo.
"People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware," Krafcik said at the show, quoting computer scientist Alan Kay.