Waymo eyes Europe, will likely partner with local firm

Waymo self-driving car prototype

Waymo is widely seen as a frontrunner in the blooming industry for self-driving cars, though so far the Alphabet-owned company is only based in the United States. Waymo is looking at foreign markets, and at the top of the list is Europe.

Europe is a different game entirely, though, and Waymo realizes this as it eyes an expansion to the old continent.

Waymo CEO John Krafcik told audiences at a recent meeting in Europe that Waymo plans to enter continent, (subscription required) reported Thursday. The CEO noted the company could “take a very different approach” in Europe as it pores over local regulations and consumer preferences.

There’s an opportunity for us at Waymo to experiment here in Europe, with different product forms, with different products, and maybe even with different go-to-market strategies,” Krafcik said.

In the U.S., Waymo plans to launch its first self-driving car service in Arizona sometime this year. Most recently the self-driving car company announced an order of up to 62,000 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans as it prepares to expand its footprint in the U.S. Waymo and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have worked closely together for years, and Waymo could one day license its technology for FCA cars.

Waymo Jaguar I-Pace

Waymo will brand its service with its own name in the U.S., but in Europe the company’s CEO said it will likely seek out a local partner to bolster its exposure. Krafcik said a partner would help make Waymo a stronger entity than if it simply competed with an incumbent in the region. Aside from FCA, Waymo also holds a partnership with Jaguar Land Rover. Last March, the company announced a new fleet of Jaguar I-Pace vehicles.

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The company’s most serious competitor, General Motors-owned GM Cruise, also has plans to launch its first mobility service. However, currently Waymo is scheduled to beat GM to market; GM plans to commercialize its self-driving cars in 2019.

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