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The Year Ahead

Waymo’s Self-Driving Future Looks Real Now That the Hype Is Fading

Blown deadlines led the public to look away, but the company’s technology is making progress—and more pilot projects are coming soon.

Waymo’s autonomously driven Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan.

Waymo’s autonomously driven Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan.

Photographer: Courtesy Waymo

Last October, Waymo announced that anybody who hailed one of its rides in the suburbs southeast of Phoenix would be picked up by a truly driverless vehicle—no human sitting behind the wheel. It was a major milestone for Alphabet Inc.’s self-driving-car unit, the culmination of more than a decade of work begun as part of Google’s skunk works, X.

It was also the realization of a technological vision almost as old as the automobile itself—a vision pursued for decades by engineers from Stuttgart to Detroit to Mountain View. “It’s a really, really big deal, we think, for us, and for the world,” Waymo Chief Executive Officer John Krafcik said at the time.