Google’s Not Messing Around With Its Autonomous Car Project
The wheels are now in motion in turning the self-driving car project into its own companyby Kirby Garlitos, on
As a relative outsider to the automotive industry, you can forgive Google for not being up to pace with its own development of autonomous driving technology. Heck, as big as it is, Google still has some limitations, right? Right? While that may still be true in some respects, you wouldn’t know it based on recent developments tied into the company’s pursuit of self-driving cars. It still hasn’t made a breakthrough in that regard, but the tech giant is spreading its wings with plans to split its autonomous car division away from Alphabet X, the R&D arm that focuses on “moonshot” projects, and have it stand on its own two feet.
A report from Recode touched on the moves that the tech giant is making to position the self-driving car project as an independent subsidiary of Alphabet, Inc, similar to how Google, Google Fiber, and Nest Labs are being run these days. On the surface implications are unlikely to be seen for quite some time, but the decision to move the self-driving car project away from Alphabet X can be seen as the clearest and most definitive sign of Google’s commitment to seeing this project through to the very end.
Project leader and former Hyundai CEO John Krafcik already touched on the project’s split from Alphabet X back in October 2016, but it’s only in the past few days that we’ve seen concrete and specific moves being made to make that eventual separation from the mothership official. For instance, the project has ramped up its employee hiring with openings for executive positions that are currently being held by executives from Alphabet X. This tells you that the project is going to have its own managers and executives who will be free from direct influences of the big bosses from the parent firm. One hiring that has already been made was Kevin Vosen, the chief legal officer of the Climate Corporation who was hired back in July 2016 to serve the same role with the autonomous car project.
In addition, the project is also reportedly – and literally – expanding in size. A separate job listing uncovered by Recode shows that the self-driving car project is also looking for a Head of Real Estate and Workplace Services, adding weight to reports that the new company plans to have its own separate work space outside of Google’s campus in California. No specific location has been announced, but teams have been sent to various parts of the U.S., including Michigan, California, Texas, Washington, and Arizona, to scout for potential locations where the company’s future headquarters will rise.
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Google’s making some serious moves
This is the kind of big news that could potentially turn into bigger news if Google’s plan to turn its self-car driving project into its own company takes off. That tells you a couple of things.
One, Google is making huge advancements in the game to the point that it’s going to need its own space, a likely scenario now that the tech giant is looking for a separate facility for the project. The search for a facility could be interesting since states have different laws pertaining to the legalities of testing cars without any physical drivers on board. It should be noted that of the five states that were mentioned, the project already has some kind of presence in four of them – California, Texas, Washington, and Arizona – that has helped it log over two million miles of road testing. The other state, Michigan, is also interesting because the state’s legislature recently allowed public road testing of autonomous driving vehicles. All five states could be in play and if don’t sleep on the possibility of Google having more than one facility for its self-driving project if the soon-to-be company grows even bigger in the coming years.
It’s also worth pointing out that Google is also in the process of expanding the project’s workforce in yet another sign of the company’s growth ambitions. Given how rampant talent poaching has become among automakers jockeying for position in the growing field, Google’s throwing it’s own hat in the ring with clear emphasis on getting individuals and retaining them throughout the entire process of developing the technology.
Then there’s the possibility that Google’s advancements are actually further along than it’s letting on. Say what you will about its inexperience in the auto industry, but the tech giant didn’t get to where it is without being extremely proactive with the projects it’s passionate about. Just look at how far it’s come with this whole self-driving car business. Nobody thought to take Google seriously when it made its plans known to develop its own autonomous driving technology. And yet here it is, with massive expansion plans that signal serious commitment in seeing this project through.
I love it. I think it’s great for Google. I think it’s great for the auto industry. Most of all, I think it’s great for the future.