2020 ALL STAR | MOBILITY
For most companies, the expansion of driverless services to a larger audience might mark a significant milestone in the push to deploy self-driving technology.
For Waymo and CEO John Krafcik, the early October push to remove human safety drivers and offer rider-only trips through the company’s Waymo One ride-hailing network certainly qualified as such an occasion. It also was one development of many sandwiched into a frenetic year.
In addition to expanding a driverless service that launched in December 2018, Waymo rolled out the fifth generation of its self-driving system this year, which is now being outfitted onto Jaguar I-Paces at a factory in Detroit.
Just as the pandemic struck, Waymo started a business division called Via, which encompasses the company’s goods-hauling ambitions in vehicles from minivans to Class 8 trucks. Krafcik, 59, has steered the new line into partnerships with UPS Inc. and Daimler Trucks.
On the passenger-carrying front, Waymo expanded a partnership with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to exclusively use the company’s Pacifica minivans and forged a new partnership with Volvo Car Group. Under Krafcik’s leadership this year, Waymo also completed its first external funding round, which brought approximately $3.25 billion into the company’s coffers.
In November, the company published a safety framework that outlines its approach to ensuring its deployments are safe and provided fresh details on both actual and simulated incidents — a step no competitor has taken.
At a time when the widespread arrival of self-driving vehicles remains years away, Krafcik spent 2020 fortifying the company’s path toward that future.