Waymo CEO Krafcik Steps Down; New Co-CEOs Come From Tech, Not Auto


Waymo self-driving's CEO, John Krafcik, has stepped down. More interesting is the two new co-CEOs appointed from inside (one from the original founding team that I worked with) have no automotive industry background. Having worked at Waymo and followed it more closely than almost anybody, I have some thoughts on the shift in this Forbes site column:

Read Waymo CEO Krafcik Steps Down; New Co-CEOs Come From Tech, Not Auto


"Google does not ask 'how high?' when asked by others to jump. They control the jumping."

Not only do Googlers indeed ask 'how high,' but they delude themselves into believing they're jumping to the Moon. In the early days of Larry, Sergey, and Pagerank, there was a very clear user-driven problem to solve: crawl the web and build a search engine. How good? Enough so that everybody's engaged. Google held engagement for a while, but then Facebook and other things took that. Search continued to be the most technologically advanced Search in our solar system, but all that effort doesn't actually make much of a difference when the users are elsewhere.

Same with self-driving. Sebastian, Chris, and (ugg) Anthony had a very clear problem to solve: make the car drive itself on a highway. And they did this very very well. But today, Tesla's deployment far dwarfs Google's. Does Tesla have the best technology? No! In fact, Tesla's tech is **wildly** unsafe today. But they have the engagement and well more than 10x the users who are committed to the success of self-driving. Today Waymo is still fighting vandalism in Arizona. Oh gosh, who would ever want to hate our cute self-driving cars?

The trouble with Waymo is that it inherited Google's deep, rationally convicted sense of entitlement. We're going to be the best, and we're going to be so good that we define our own metrics, and (thanks to Larry and Sergey) we're going to get very very very rich along the way. Chauffer was an utter failure with respect to team-building: Chris made a ton of money and left, the founders of Nuro made $40m each and left, and Anthony made off like a literal bandit.

What's most telling about Google's impenetrable culture of entitlement is that Brad explicitly says "There has been much reporting by others of the growing rift and spectacular departure of Anthony which I have declined to write about." Levandowski instigated perhaps one of the first major self-driving accidents recorded on video and yet ex-Googlers like Brad believe they have zero accountability here. Waymo itself has enjoyed huge privilege in avoiding regulation and scrutiny of that event. When Uber killed Elaine Herzberg, they got caught. But Google and Wyamo, like any good banker on Wall Street, is very happy to let their own crash get swept under the rug. It's all in the name of safety, of course.

Brad, Sundar himself says he's able to recognize the trust problem that Google has created. I hope with the end of the Krafcik era, you can begin to recognize what Google has embedded into you.

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