Waymo is planning to introduce its self-driving ride-hailing service to the European market in partnership with another company, the company’s Chief Executive Officer John Krafcik confirmed during the Automotive News Europe Congress in Turin, Italy. Krafcik, however, did not reveal specific details about the timeframe of Waymo’s plan. He said the Alphabet company sees an opportunity to test its service in Europe with different market strategies, adding that the approach might vary from its business methods in the United States.
Last October, Krafcik said the self-driving vehicle is close to commercialization with hopes that the obstacles that stand its way will be overcome in the near future. In Arizona, Waymo gained approval last January from the state’s Department of Transportation to begin transporting humans using driverless cars and operate as a Transportation Network Company in the region, where it will initially deploy its fleet of autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans to ferry paying passengers around the region. The autonomous car development company started offering free rides to local customers in Phoenix using self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans, as part of its Early Rider program. Waymo is set to launch its first commercial autonomous ride-sharing service later this year, though it is expected to be limited by the company’s current inventory of Chrysler Pacifica minivans.
Waymo continues to expand its inventory of self-driving vehicles by ordering more units from existing partners such as Fiat Chrysler and Jaguar Land Rover. Last week, the company ordered 62,000 more self-driving Chrysler Pacifica units to augment its existing fleet, which currently consists of 600 Pacifica minivans. It is understood that the new additions to its vehicle portfolio won’t be delivered to the company at once, which means its fleet of autonomous vehicles is set to grow in a gradual manner over the course of this year. Last March, Waymo and Jaguar Land Rover partnered to develop a fully autonomous electric vehicle with the goal of producing 20,000 self-driving cars in the next few years and serving around a million trips every day. It’s not clear whether Waymo will also form a partnership with either Fiat Chrysler or Jaguar Land Rover to build its self-driving fleet in Europe. Krafcik hinted at the possibility that the Waymo brand may not be used in the Old Continent, having observed that its name won’t be as robust as the other brands in the region.