After leading Waymo for five and a half years, John Krafcik announced his resignation on Friday, leaving the company to two co-CEOs Tekedra Mawakana and Dmitri Dolgov.
Krafcik oversaw the company’s biggest milestones, renamed the company Waymo, partnered and raised external funds while maintaining the company’s enthusiasm. But Krafcik’s departure marks an early hype and a long and arduous reality check for the expansion of self-driving cars.
Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst at Guidehouse Insights, told CNBC on Friday: “If you look back at the past year and a half, almost all companies engaged in the development of self-driving cars realize that this is more It’s a much more difficult problem.”
Abuelsamid said that Krafcik’s connections and experience in the automotive industry-he was the president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America-helped Waymo reach important partnerships with automakers including Fiat Chrysler and Volvo.
In 2020, he let this 10-year-old company conduct the first round of external financing-a $2.25 billion financing led by Silicon Valley investment companies including Silver Lake. Then, it raised another $750 million. He also oversaw the launch of a local delivery service with freight partner Waymo Via, and recently started its first self-driving car service, which some residents can order in Phoenix, Arizona.
Krafcik took power in 2015 and led Waymo to join an industry alliance in 2016 to accelerate the development of autonomous vehicles. Alphabet became a founding member of the organization called the “Safer Street Autonomous Driving Alliance”, which includes Argo AI, Aurora, Cruise, Ford, Uber, Volvo and Zoox.
Knowing the business and back end of the zoom car, Krafcik is not divorced from reality. This has been especially true in recent years.
Close-up of a self-driving minivan that is part of Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc., with lidar and other sensor units and logos, which is part of Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. Visible drivers, October 28, 2018.
Smith Collection/Gado | Archived Photos | Getty Images
Under Alphabet’s “Other Bets” umbrella, the company has been bleeding. Since Ruth Porat joined the company as CFO and tightened his wallet, the money has become less acceptable. Other betting departments show an operating loss of US$4.48 billion in 2020, higher than the US$2.03 billion in 2019. Covid also caused losses to operations, as CNBC recently discovered that Waymo is not sure whether it has the ability to continue to pay some workers’ salaries. Pandemic.
Krafcik’s resignation predated the expected federal regulations for autonomous vehicles in the United States.
The National Transportation Safety Board recently called on its sister agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to impose stricter standards on autonomous vehicle technology. NHTSA consulted the public before the proposed rules were formulated, and ended the comment period on April 1.
Krafcik realized the danger.
After a pedestrian was hit and killed by an Uber semi-autonomous vehicle in Arizona in 2018, Krafchik told CNBC that part of his role at Waymo was to “ensure that the world, the cities we operate, and the regulators who supervise these cities understand our technology.”
However, Kravchik is no stranger to those who exaggerate the reality of when self-driving cars will be available. Waymo and Krafcik assured the media and the public that this technology is rapidly spreading, dating back to 2012, when the technology was still known as Google’s self-driving car project.
Krafcik stated in 2017 that it does not need to wait until 2020 (analysts predict that self-driving cars will be fully autonomous), but it will provide riders with the ability to “in a few months”.
“Completely driverless cars are here,” Krafchik said at the 2017 Lisbon Web Summit, where he showed a video of a man falling asleep in one of the Waymo vehicles. “This will not happen in 2020, it will happen today.”
What he didn’t explain at the time was that it was still in the early stages of testing and there were still obstacles to overcome.
In recent years, the company has begun to fall back on its enthusiasm because it lags behind the original timetable for using fully self-driving cars on the highway.
In 2019, CNBC’s report found that Waymo still relies mainly on human safety drivers and still needs a considerable amount of community support. Soon after, Morgan Stanley lowered its valuation of Waymo by 40% from US$175 billion to US$105 billion, saying that this underestimated the company’s continued reliance on human drivers.
In 2019, Waymo’s chief operating officer and current CEO Tekedra Mawakana said at a conference that the hype surrounding autonomous vehicles has become “uncontrollable.”
That year, Krafcik began to make some adjustments to this remark at a meeting of the National Governors Association in 2019, pouring cold water on the topic. CNBC found that by the end of this year, the company had merged its operations in Detroit and Phoenix and closed its factory in Austin, Texas, affecting approximately 100 workers.
Waymo has more than 20 million miles of public road driving and 20 billion miles of simulated driving distance, leading other companies in autonomous driving technology. However, even if Krafcik helps further development, it still has a long way to go if it is to expand.
Abuelsamid said: “I think maybe he thinks this is a good time to resign.” “He put the company on the right path. Maybe he is just tired of fighting and wants to do something else temporarily.”
Krafcik did not respond to a request for comment.
CNBC’s Lora Kolodny contributed to this article.
Watch now: This small town in Arizona is crowded with Waymo’s self-driving cars