Google's modus operandi dating back to the time when the company first got some decent money in their coffers was to never stop innovating, to carry crazy ideas as far as they would go, and to bankroll the whole operation on the back of Google's more practical products like search. This culture and apparent need for it to be toned down were most of the reason that CFO Ruth Porat was brought on board when the company became Alphabet, and she has since done as she promised, putting "moonshots" under the microscope and helping to bring wild spending to bear, while implementing sensible business plans for products. Together with Porat, Larry Page decided to put the high-flying dreams surrounding the self-driving car unit, now called Chauffeur, a notch down in priority to focus on how the company could make back some of the so far immense investment in the technology that they've put into it.
One of the ways that they'll be building a business around the autonomous driving technology that they've developed so far is through a partnership with Fiat-Chrysler, wherein they will supply their AI to power autonomous features of future vehicles, rather than the whole experience. Still, an autonomous taxi fleet is a possibility by the end of 2017 with this deal, and is part of Google's aim. Google also has a close partnership with Ford, though the fruits of that and what they may be working on together are thus far undisclosed.
This move isn't just about tightening belts and keeping the entire business profitable, of course; Google is quickly finding themselves supplanted and subverted in the self-driving car space by Uber, who, despite a late entrance to the space, is already conducting public testing of their own self-driving cars. The race to monetize autonomous automobiles is on, and Porat's strategy amounts to Google officially entering that race in full capacity, instead of simply watching it all happen around them as they continue to work toward their original ambition and not see any good come of it until the project is sufficiently advanced to come to full fruition. With Uber pushing things along faster than Google would like, the full-on transportation revolution may take longer, but palpable changes are coming very soon.