Waymo executives think people have taken its promises of self-driving cars too seriously.
The Alphabet subsidiary went "through a lot of hype that was sort of unmanageable," said Tekedra N. Mawakana, Waymo's chief external officer, at a Business Insider conference Tuesday. "Sometimes a lot of hype is so mismatched to what's happening in the real world."
Mawakana said the reporting has become a bit more "grounded" today, but he went on to say that the hype had caused people to develop mistaken ideas like they would no longer be able to drive their own cars once self-driving cars became ubiquitous.
"I'd like to see the reporting reflect a little more on the gravity of the opportunity that we have and a little less about the hype of what this is going to mean," she continued.
The company has dialed back its enthusiastic tone as it falls behind its original timeline for getting full self-driving cars on the road. The company said in 2017 that it wouldn't need to wait until 2020 — when analysts expected self-driving cars to go fully autonomous — but that it would give riders the ability within "months."
Morgan Stanley cut its valuation on Waymo by 40% last month from $175 billion to $105 billion, concluding that the industry is moving toward commercialization slower than expected and that Waymo still relies on human safety drivers, which CNBC reported in August.
But no company has been more instrumental in driving the hype around self-driving than Google. Consumer and media expectations arose based on what Waymo had told the press and public, dating back as far as 2012, when it was still known as Google's self-driving car project.
Two years later, the company is still singing that same tune. Earlier this month, the company reportedly sent notifications to Arizona residents who were part of Waymo's commercial pilot, Waymo One, stating "Completely driverless Waymo cars are on the way."
But, it still isn't clear how many of the cars will no longer need a test driver.
Don't expect that to stop Alphabet execs from referencing Waymo on the company's earnings call later this month. The self-driving car business often comes up during calls, typically with the word "exciting" attached.