It feels like Google/Alphabet’s self-driving car project has been at a bit of a yellow light lately, with the recent departure of its technical lead & director Chris Urmson and other key members being the biggest sign of trouble. Now, Reuters reports that the Mountain View company has hired ex-Airbnb executive Shaun Stewart as “a director of the self-driving car project” (albeit not a replacement for Urmson), and that his role will be “to help commercialize Google’s self-driving technology.”
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Shaun Stewart is joining Google as a director of the self-driving car project, spokesman Johnny Luu said on Friday.
Stewart’s role will be to help commercialize Google’s self-driving technology, which has been in development for more than seven years and has seen an increased pace of activity over the last 12 months.
It seems Google is getting nervous about the project’s seeming inability to come up with an actual business plan, and rightfully so. The Information has reported in the past that the company has been struggling to find an avenue for revenue, saying that Google is juggling a variety options that include licensing the tech to struggling automakers and entering the ride sharing business.
And as Reuters notes, Stewart’s job seems to be to figure that out:
Stewart is an experienced technology executive specializing in building and scaling businesses. He joins Google from Airbnb where he set up the company’s vacation rentals business. Prior to that, he was chief executive of Jetsetter, a company that was acquired by TripAdvisor.
This comes not long after Google formed partnership with Fiat Crysler to make 100 self-driving minivans, something that is reportedly “inconsequential” and nothing more than the automobile company getting “a seat at the table” with Google. We did learn recently, however, why Google chose to go with the Chrysler Pacifica minivan: an Alphabet engineer says that its electronic doors would be necessary for ride sharing applications. Maybe that’s the avenue Google has chosen.
More self-driving car coverage:
- It turns out Alphabet wanted the Chrysler Pacifica partly for its electronic doors
- Chris Urmson and two other early members of Google’s self-driving car project are leaving
- June self-driving car report details how Google’s cars share the road with cyclists
- Report: Google’s self-driving car partnership with Fiat is inconsequential
- Talking Schmidt: Self-driving cars are years, not decades, away from becoming a reality