John Krafcik. File photo: REUTERS
John Krafcik. File photo: REUTERS

Turin — Alphabet’s self-driving unit Waymo wants to bring its robo-taxi service to Europe after it launches in the US later this year.

Waymo’s CEO John Krafcik said the company could enter European markets in collaboration with a partner, but did not give any timeframe.

"There is an opportunity for us at Waymo to experiment here in Europe, with different products and maybe even with different go-to-market strategies," Krafcik said at the Automotive News Europe Congress in Turin late on Wednesday. "It’s possible we will take a very different approach here than we would in the US."

Company officials have been spending time in Europe to better understand regulatory, policy and other differences with the US, he said.

Waymo will use vehicles made by Fiat Chrysler (FCA) and Jaguar Land Rover in its autonomous fleet in the US, but Krafcik did not signal if either would be potential partners for services in Europe.

The company is set to launch its ride-hailing service in certain areas of Phoenix, Arizona in coming months, with plans to subsequently roll out the programme more widely in the US.

"The world keeps saying that self-driving cars are coming soon. We are doing this, today, in Phoenix, driving without humans in the front row," Krafcik said. "Sometimes I feel like the world hasn’t quite reckoned with that thought."

In the US, its service will carry the Waymo brand, but that may not be the case in Europe if it has a partner. "It’s probably safe to say the Waymo brand wouldn’t be as strong as some other incumbent brands that are already strong in Europe."

Large tech companies, established vehicle makers and well-funded start-ups, including Uber and Tesla, are all stepping up efforts to gain pole position in the self-driving car market, which is expected to carry the automobile industry into the next era.

Fiat Chrysler said last week that it would supply Waymo with another 62,000 Chrysler Pacifica hybrid mini-vans. The companies are also in early discussions about using Waymo’s technology in FCA cars to be sold in retail.

On June 1, Waymo showcased some of the Chrysler vans during FCA’s investor day in Italy, taking participants for test drives. "For the first time we brought Waymo technology and demonstrated true Level 4 (autonomy), no humans in the front row, fully autonomous, no safety-net driving, right here in Italy — it was amazing," Krafcik said.

Waymo said in March it would also add up to 20,000 Jaguar Land Rover electric vehicles (EVs) to its upcoming autonomous fleet.

Reuters