- In January 2016, Anthony Levandowski, a self-driving car engineer, left Google and went to Uber. CEO Travis Kalanick was eager to produce Your own robot taxi.
- Levandowski supported Chris Urmson during his tenure at Google, a former roommate and long-time competitor.
- Years of infighting and indecision on the Google team-most of which were concentrated in Levandowski and Urmson-made the search giant vulnerable to attacks by competitors. But Uber’s own efforts are doomed to failure.
- The story is adapted from the new book “Driven: The Race to Create Self-Driving Cars” by Alex Davies, Senior Editor of Insider, which records the chaotic, chaotic creation of driverless cars as we know them today.
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On January 7, 2016, Anthony Levandowski emailed Larry Page, wishing him a Happy New Year, and once again lamented the driverlessness of the search giant The status of automotive research projects.
Levandowski wrote using the code name of the effort he had helped initiate: “The driver is broken.” “We are rapidly losing our technological advantage.”
His team spent seven years and billions of dollars in funding, but hardly produced any commercial products. He and some comrades thought that Chris Urmson, who was better than Lewandowski in controlling the team, deployed their technology too carefully and accused him of letting Google’s competitors catch up.
However, the team’s problems go far beyond Urmson’s prudent worldview. As the project shifts from research to development, the debate about how to commercialize its work-who is responsible and who will receive the biggest bonus-may make it vulnerable to attacks by competitors.
The two founding members of the team, Levandowski and Urmson, stood at the center of the struggle. Levandowski is good at launching ambitious projects at an alarming speed and ignores the usual way of working, thus becoming the epitome of disruptors in Silicon Valley. Urmson is even more a scholar, he is unwilling to introduce completely safe things that he cannot be sure of. Google’s leaders believe that everyone provides valuable skills. But this is not Abraham Lincoln’s “opposing team”, overcoming their differences to help maintain the alliance and win the civil war. The war itself is more like a war, and every topic of discussion can be turned into a contest of debate, debate and swearing.
Levandowski, Urmson and their teammates managed to find cause and effect in the least important places, such as the type of buttons that a car should be equipped with. Some people want two buttons: green to engage the system and red to disengage the system. Others think it would be easier to turn on and off a feature at the same time. They debated whether they should add new buttons or readjust the buttons already in the car. They debated how to display the speed set by the driver for the vehicle, whether it is an absolute number (such as 70 mph) or an offset speed limit (65 + 5).
Driver engineer Don Burnette said in an interview: “We argued about the stupidest thing and wasted a lot of time.” “Look back at how meaningful or meaningful that push-button discussion is? It’s all waste time.”
They don’t have time. By 2016, Uber’s self-driving research team became popular with Google, and CEO Travis Kalanick was eager to close the gap.
On January 27, Levandowski emailed Page again. “I want to sit in the driver’s seat, not the passenger seat, now [it] He wrote: “It feels like I am in the trunk.” He said that he was loading and unloading his clothes with a driverless truck. He is not saying that Uber has agreed to acquire his start-up company. In a few months, he will continue to implement Kalanick’s autonomous driving plan with disastrous consequences.
When Urmson heard the news later that day, he showed no signs of hesitation. He marched to Levandowski to his desk and asked him to pack his things. Then, he led the 6’6″ engineer to leave the autonomous driving office, walked to the “public” side of the building, and placed it in the conference room. Then, he called the human resources department to deal with the world that the person helped create In, the person in turn became his competitor, teammate, roommate and main opponent’s resignation.
This feature story is adapted from the new book “Driven: The Race to Make Self-Driving Cars” by Alex Davies, the senior editor of Insider. Davies interviewed more than 120 people and spent many years depicting the chaotic development of the driverless car industry, full of stories about technological breakthroughs, rampant trade secrets, stupid T-shirts, etc.