Google (at the time, as this was before Alphabet was formed) was one of the first companies to get started with self-driving or autonomous vehicles. The company has driven over 1.8 million miles in the past few years, while testing a wide variety of vehicles. Including some of their own that they made in-house, in addition to models from Lexus and Fiat Chrysler. One would think that Alphabet would be first to market with their own self-driving car, but that may not be the case, as Alphabet is quickly falling behind their competitors in getting to market. In fact, there are already autonomous vehicles on the road in Singapore. With Uber putting their own on the road in Pittsburgh real soon.
Alphabet has actually lost a good bit of executives at their Self-Driving Car Project in recent weeks. Of course the most notable was Chris Urmson, who had been the manager of the unit the entire time (starting in 2009). While Alphabet hasn't commented on the number of executives that have left, they have hired some new faces for the project, and seemingly are headed in a new direction. And that is to head to market and start selling these vehicles, or at least the software in these vehicles. However, there's still a pretty major problem. And that's partners.
The company's competitors consist of mostly auto-makers (makes sense, right?), and something that auto-makers have that Alphabet doesn't, is experience in mass producing vehicles. This is where partners come in. Alphabet needs to work with auto-makers to create their vehicles – similar to what Google does with smartphone makers for their Nexus program (or is it the Pixel program now?). Another way to get their software out and on the roads is with a ride-sharing service. Now this is exactly what Google wants to do, and has already started doing it with Waze in a few areas, but it's far from being available worldwide or even nationwide. And Waze also is not using their self-driving cars yet.
Another huge problem for Alphabet with their Self-Driving Car Project is indeed snow. Those that live in the Northern part of the United States will know that autonomous vehicles need to know how to drive in the snow for a good part of the calendar year. It's something that Alphabet hasn't yet tested out, but are planning to do in the near future. Ford has been testing their autonomous vehicles in snowy conditions at their test track in Dearborn, Michigan – where their world headquarters are located.
Alphabet hasn't decided on a business model yet for their Self-Driving Car Project, and if they don't hurry it up, they may lose out to their rivals and end up wasting those seven years they've spent working on this project. They did recently hire Shaun Stewart who previously worked at Airbnb in charge of their vacation rentals business and was the CEO of TripAdvisor, which was a bit of an interesting hire, considering he has no background in the automotive industry. But he does have background in selling rentals. And that could be what Alphabet is going for with their project.