Another solid-state LiDAR startup. Verizon mulls more auto tech deals. Platooning vs. carpooling.
Last Friday, news broke that Chris Urmson, CTO of Google X’s Self-Driving Car Project, was leaving the company. The Carnegie Mellon alum has been a pivotal figure on the team since its inception seven years ago, leading software engineering efforts for Google’s autonomous tech.
Accounts from former employees suggest that the departure was spurred by disagreements between Urmson and Google Car CEO John Krafcik over the direction of the project. Krafcik, an automotive veteran from Hyundai America and TrueCar, was brought on last year to helm the division.
For his part, Urmson was gracious and diplomatic in a Medium post, expressing confidence in the project’s leadership. However, parallels can be drawn to Apple, another revered tech giant running an automotive initiative, which has faced similar headwinds this year.
Amid reports of disputes between automotive hires and company veterans and confusion over the project’s vision, last month Cupertino tapped longtime hardware exec Bob Mansfield to head its vehicle effort. Mansfield fills the void left by Steven Zadesky, who departed in January for personal reasons.
Such cases illustrate the cultural friction between the automotive and tech worlds that many expected as these fields have rapidly converged.
Tech companies like Google have beaten automakers out of the gate with their emphasis on rapid innovation, but 2016 has shown that they still must contend with this divide and clearly define their automotive goals as they venture further into unfamiliar territory.