Ford's abrupt naming of a new CEO—James Hackett, the head of its Smart Mobility division—makes it clear that the company wants to catch up in the self-driving race. In explaining the Ford board's move, NBC aptly pointed out that Waymo is ahead of the automaker (and all other self-driving car companies, for that matter) when it comes to miles driven autonomously and a good track record of safety drivers not having to intervene in cars' operations.
Apple and oranges: But these metrics aren't the only assessment of a company's potential. What's more, the two companies are more likely to work together than to compete with each other given their respective business models and core competencies.
Since Waymo became a standalone unit within Alphabet, new chief John Krafcik made it clear that it has no plans of manufacturing cars on its own—rather, it's focused on building self-driving tech for actual automakers to eventually use. And that's not to mention all the investments Ford has already made into autonomous driving tech and companies, including LiDAR maker Velodyne, and Argo.ai, an artificial intelligence startup founded by Waymo and Uber veterans.
Bottom line: If anything, chairman Bill Ford Jr.'s comments about the need for more cost cutting and streamlining reveal the real reason: Ford needs to focus on making and selling cars at a profit.