Google’s self-driving project may graduate from X Labs, the company’s moonshot incubator, in a few months, according to project leader and ex-Hyundai CEO John Krafcik.
Speaking at the Nikkei Innovation Forum in Palo Alto two months ago, Krafcik said that the project will become its own division inside Alphabet, Google’s holding company, and would greatly expand its staff and physical size.
The self-driving project has already started hiring its own executives, according to ReCode, including chief legal officer Kevin Vosen. The team is on the hunt for a “head of real estate”, who would be responsible for finding the right testing grounds for autonomous vehicles.
Google has made do with state or city partnerships to test self-driving cars, but as the self-driving project gets bigger it may start to look for more private land to test the autonomous cars in a variety of tricky situations.
As self-driving starts to enter onto the public roads, Google, Apple, and other operators need private land to test uncommon situations, to ensure their system is capable of avoiding accidents. The American Center for Mobility, backed by the state of Michigan, recently purchased 311 acres of land, which will become a faux town for self-driving projects.
Google car project too quiet?
Google has been under a lot of pressure to make its self-driving project more prominent, as competitors like Tesla and Uber roll out self-driving features to the public. The company has still not revealed its plan for commercializing the project.
Waze, the traffic and navigation app that Google bought in 2013, recently launched a ride-sharing program for users. Some have speculated that this may be Google route into the self-driving market, swapping ride-sharing for autonomous ride-hailing in the near future.
If that is how Google plans to enter the market, it will still require someone to build the hardware for the self-driving system and customers to move from Uber, Lyft, and Didi. That puts the division-to-be behind Tesla and Uber, who have at least one of the requirements.