Thrun and his team at Stanford win the DARPA Grand Challenge.

Sebastian Thrun DARPA grand challenge
Damian Dovarganes/AP

Thrun and his colleagues from Stanford captured the victory in 2005, taking on a difficult offroad course. For many observers, this was the beginning the self-driving car era.

Google X lab undertakes the project.

Sergey Brin
Eric Risberg/Associated Press

The X lab focuses on Google's most out-there ideas, from Glass to Waymo. The projects are called "moon shots."

The Google Car project starts to put self-driving tech on Toyota Priuses ...

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The 2012 period was the Google Car's early days. Toyota vehicles were used to support the hardware technology needed to explore the numerous challenges of self-driving vehicles.

... and Lexuses.

google io car

The SUV was a larger platform.

A purpose-built self-driving vehicle, called Firefly, enters the picture in 2014.

google driverless car
AP/Tony Avelar

For most outside observers, the Firefly podmobile symbolized the Google Car. It would be tested minus a steering wheel under some circumstances. But it didn't mean that Google was going to become a car company.

Interestingly, while Firefly was involved in accidents, most were fender-benders that were the fault of human drivers in other vehicles.

Google takes its tech to the streets.

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The Google Car spent most of its early test period in California, but after 2013 states that had the vehicles on public roads includes Arizona, Michigan, and Texas.

Krafcik becomes CEO.

John Krafcik
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The former North American head of Hyundai joined Waymo as CEO in 2016. It was the first genuinely prominent hire of an experienced auto-industry name by a Silicon Valley company.

Google Car becomes Waymo.

waymo google alphabet
Brendan McDermid/Reuters

After Google became Alphabet in 2015, the Google Car project was renamed Waymo in 2016 and spun off.

Waymo takes Uber to court.

travis kalanick ex ceo uber trial san francisco waymo
Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

The lead-up to Waymo LLC v. Uber Technologies, Inc. was much-discussed, as former Google Car engineer Anthony Levandowski was accused in intellectual property theft. 

But the actual trial lasted just a few days in February of 2018, with Uber settling with Waymo by giving up about $245 million in equity.

The business plan bursts into view.

Waymo Driverless Car Phoenix

By late 2017 and early 2018, Krafcik started to outline the Waymo business plan.

It revolves around our key areas: ride hailing, moving around goods, augmenting public transportation, and making Waymo's tech available to partners through licensing deals.

Krafick also stressed that Waymo was all about developing what he called a "driver" — a system of laser-radars, sensors, and software that can "drive" any vehicle.

Waymo joins up with Fiat Chrysler and Jaguar.

jaguar i pace waymo
Mark Matousek / Business Insider

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles joined up with Waymo in 2017, providing the self-driving startup with Pacifica minivans.

The 2018 New York Auto Show found Waymo pairing up with Jaguar to add a Waymo driver to the I-PACE luxury electric vehicle.

Waymo is worth $175 billion.


Morgan Stanley argued that adding up all Waymo's possible lines of business could yield a value of $175 billion — $100 billion more than previously thought by many analysts.