The CEO of Alphabet's Autonomous Driving Division Waymo Steps Down From His Role
【Summary】John Krafcik, the CEO of Waymo for over five years, announced on Friday that he is stepping down from his role. Waymo spun out of Google’s early self-driving car project and is viewed as the leading developer of self-driving technology. He is being replaced by current Waymo CTO Dmitri Dolgov and COO Tekedra Mawakana. The two will lead the company as co-CEOs.
John Krafcik, the CEO of Waymo for over five and a half years, announced on Friday that he is stepping down from his role. Waymo spun out of Google's early self-driving car project and is viewed as the leading developer of self-driving technology in the industry.
Krafcik was a long-time auto industry executive who was tapped to head Waymo in Sept 2015. He is being replaced by current Waymo CTO Dmitri Dolgov and COO Tekedra Mawakana. The two will lead the company as co-CEOs.
Waymo said that Krafcik would stay on as an advisor.
"This is a choice John has made after a long and successful career in the automotive industry," Waymo said in a statement.
Krafcik said his successors will continue to drive Waymo's technical and business leadership in the rapidly advancing autonomous industry.
"My time leading Waymo has been the capstone of my career. Together, we've achieved remarkable firsts as we develop, deploy, and commercialize our fully autonomous Waymo Driver, and work to make our roads safer and mobility more accessible. The Waymo Driver has driven autonomously tens of millions of miles on public roads across 25 U.S. cities, and more than 20 billion miles in simulation," Krafick wrote in a blog post.
Waymo's roots go back to 2009, when it was formed as a Google project to develop self-driving technology for the tech giant.
After Google officially became Alphabet in Oct 2015, it divided the corporate structure into two main units, Google and "Other Bets." Waymo is a part of the company's Other Bets and each Alphabet division has its own CEO. Although Waymo is a subsidiary of parent Alphabet, it operates independently.
Waymo built a compact, electric self-driving prototype vehicle from the ground up called the "Firefly" as a platform for its autonomous driving technology. Waymo's fleet of self-driving Firefly's were frequently spotted on roads in Silicon Valley until the company retired the vehicles in 2017.
Wamyo made headlines when one of its Firefly vehicles was pulled over in Mountain View, California by a police officer for apparently driving too slow. No ticket was issued as the vehicles were programmed to always obey posted speed limits.
Waymo has since developed an entire autonomous driving software stack called the Waymo Driver, that can be added to production vehicles. Waymo launched an on-demand robotaxi service in Chandler, Arizona Called Waymo One, which is currently picking up riders in autonomous vehicles without safety drivers onboard. The company is using a fleet of Chrysler Pacifica minivans outfitted with sensors and other hardware for autonomous driving.
Before launching the Waymo One service, Waymo was testing and perfecting its autonomous driving software using a fleet of self-driving development vehicles. Over the past several years, Waymo's fleet of self-driving vehicles has driven over 20 million miles on public roads in the U.S.
As an industry leader, Waymo also shares the data it collects to help other companies working on autonomous driving technology. Last month, Waymo updated its "Open Dataset" which is available to third parties. The Open Dataset now includes a "motion dataset", which is the largest interactive dataset ever released for research, the company claims. The data includes behavior prediction and motion forecasting for autonomous driving.
Datasets like Waymo's are used to train machine learning models. With the data, machine learning algorithms can be used for object detection, identification, localization and behavior prediction, all of which are performed by an autonomous vehicle's software.
The dataset contains more than 570 hours of unique data, which Waymo believes is the largest dataset of interactive behaviors ever released for autonomous driving research.
Under Krafcik, Waymo has also expanded its work to include self-driving trucks. The company is also working to launch an autonomous freight delivery service using the self-driving truck called Waymo Via.
In Oct 2020, Waymo announced a global partnership with Daimler Trucks to integrate its "Waymo Driver" into Class 8 trucks from Freightliner. The autonomous Freightliner trucks equipped with the Waymo Driver will be available to U.S. customers in the coming years, the companies said last year.
Although Waymo is widely considered the leader in developing self-driving technology, the company is still years away from building large-scale business and generating profits, as are Waymo's rivals like Cruise, the autonomous driving unit of automaker General Motors. Cruise also plans to launch a commercial robotaxi service in San Francisco using a fleet of self-driving Chevy Bolt EVs.
In September 2019, Morgan Stanley slashed its projected valuation of Waymo by 40% to $105 million from its earlier estimate of $175 million, saying the commercialization of self-driving vehicles and technology was taking longer than expected.
Waymo reported $3 billion in new funding in the first three months of last year in its first ever outside investment round as an independent company.
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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