TURIN -- Waymo aims to expand beyond the United States by entering Europe, potentially offering a mobility service with a fully driverless car fleet in cooperation with a local partner.
Speaking at the annual Automotive News Europe Congress, the head of Alphabet’s autonomous driving unit said it is possible the business "would take a very different approach" in Europe. For that reason, Waymo has been spending more time in Europe recently to better understand key differences in areas such as the regulatory and policy environment.
“There’s an opportunity for us at Waymo to experiment here in Europe, with different product forms, with different products and maybe even with different go-to-market strategies,” Waymo CEO John Krafcik told Congress participants in Turin.
Whereas Waymo will have its own branded mobility service in Phoenix, Arizona and the San Francisco Bay area in the near future, Krafcik said he would likely seek out a partner to help the company in Europe.
"It’s probably fair to say that the Waymo brand wouldn't be as strong as some other existing incumbent brands that are already strong in Europe, so that's one potentially different go to market approach," he said.
Should it proceed, Waymo can lean on two strategic European partners in Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Jaguar Land Rover. Waymo already has contracts to provide Chrysler Pacifica minivans and the full-electric Jaguar I-Pace with its embedded software.
According to Krafcik, he could also see a situation where Waymo would deepen its ties with FCA. This could mean going from a partnership where the automaker develops cars for its transportation-as-a-service to also working with it "on a personal-use licensing product," he said, without elaborating further.
FCA recently hosted an investor day at which Waymo showed its self-driving capabilities at the Balocco Proving Ground in Italy.
"For the first time, we brought Waymo technology to Europe and demonstrated true Level 4, no-humans-in-the-front-row, fully autonomous, no-safety-net driving right here in Italy,” Krafcik told participants at the Congress.
Jaguar might have a leg up in the running as the brand was chosen to supply I-Pace electric vehicles for Waymo’s branded fleet in Phoenix and the Bay Area.
"We want to get to a hundred percent BEV fleet as quickly as possible and our systems also work very well when you’ve got a high-powered electrical system in the vehicle," Krafcik said.
The Waymo CEO also announced that his vehicles had recently breached the 7-million-mile mark of fully autonomous driving logged on public roads.
"The world keeps saying that self-driving cars are coming soon. We're doing this. Today. In Phoenix. Driving without humans in the front row," he said.