This means that Google is ready to turn its self-driving car project into a major business.
Google has hired its first top executive from the auto industry. Meet John Krafcik, a 25-year auto industry veteran who previously led Hyundai’s business in the United States. He will be joining as the CEO of Google’s self-driving car project in late September. Former director Chris Urmson remains as the technical director of the project.
Google made the announcement on Sunday evening. The hiring shows that Google is ready to turn its self-driving car project into a major business. Currently, the Google car project is a part of Google X, Alphabet’s research lab. A representative hinted that the project could eventually become an Alphabet company.
“We’re feeling good about our progress, so now we’re investing in building out a team that can help us bring this technology to its full potential,” a Google spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal. “John’s combination of technical expertise and auto-industry experience will be particularly valuable as we collaborate with many different partners to achieve our goal.”
A True Auto Industry Veteran
Mr. Krafcik is a Stanford-educated mechanical engineer who spent many years in numerous engineering and management positions at top companies including Ford and Hyundai. Prior to joining Google, he served as the president of TrueCar, an automotive pricing and information website for new and used car buyers and dealers. He is known in the industry for his data-driven approach, which focuses on lean manufacturing.
After holding several leadership positions at Ford, he joined Hyundai and stayed there for ten years. Krafcik is also known for leading Hyundai to record-breaking sales in the United States. Most notably, he oversaw the team that started an assurance program that allowed customers who lost jobs from the 2008 financial crisis to return their cars. The move helped Hyundai to maintain profitability in spite of the crisis.
“This is a great opportunity to help Google develop the enormous potential of self-driving cars,” Krafcik said in a statement. “This technology can save thousands of lives, give millions of people greater mobility and free us from a lot of the things we find frustrating about driving today. I can’t wait to get started.”
The Car of the Future
For Krafcik, the new position will give him a rich playground where he could implement his expertise. But Google will benefit more because the appointment will send a strong message to car companies that the company is serious about autonomous cars. Car manufacturers like Toyota have already invested in autonomous driving projects. Apple is also said to be developing a self-driving car.
Google started testing its self-driving technology in 2009 using a Toyota Prius. In 2012, engineers tested another car, a Lexus RX450h. The project achieved a milestone by completing over 300,000 miles of testing on freeways. The team moved into cities, testing more complex roads and environments. Then in 2014, Google announced a mock-up of the self-driving car, which had been redesigned from the ground up. Several months later, Google unveiled the first build of the prototype vehicle.
Yes, true: I'm joining the Google Self-Driving Car project in late September.— John Krafcik (@johnkrafcik) September 14, 2015
This is a great opportunity to help Google develop the enormous potential of self-driving cars. I can’t wait to get started.— John Krafcik (@johnkrafcik) September 14, 2015
Self-driving cars could save 1000s of lives, give people greater mobility & free us from things we find frustrating about driving today.— John Krafcik (@johnkrafcik) September 14, 2015
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