Google is getting serious about its driverless vehicle program. Their autonomous pod prototype moved from the company’s campus to actual roads in 2015. Then the search giant brought its self-driving Lexus SUV to public roads in Austin, Texas the same summer. Now, moving things right along, Google has hired former Hyundai CEO John Krafcik to oversee the project.
Krafcik comes to Google with 25 years of car knowledge under his belt. For 10 years he worked at Hyundai, five as president and CEO. The former chief executive officer’s most recent gig however was as the head of TrueCar—where he will continue to serve on the board.
The driverless car program will remain a project of Google X, the company’s science-fictiony research division, for now, but a spokesperson says the self-driving car division is a “good candidate” to become Alphabet’s next spin-off company.
Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, recently discussed the importance of driverless cars on Stephen Colbert’s The Late Show. Responding to worries that vehicles on autopilot would put drivers out of business, he said “[Google, Tesla, and Apple are] doing the driverless thing. This is gonna be the world. And so the question for a tech company is, ‘Do you want to be part of the future? Or do you want to resist the future?’ And we feel that in many ways we want to not be like the taxi industry before us.”
With Tesla autonomous vehicles “almost ready” to drive and park themselves and Apple cars rumored to be on their way, Google’s vehicle program will face increasing competition. Unlike Elon Musk’s and Tim Cook’s entrants, Google is taking an Android-like approach. The company wants to make their self-driving car tech available for existing manufacturers—not produce their own line of vehicles.
If manufacturers are willing to cooperate, that is. Many existing car-makers like Honda and Toyota are readying their own driverless technologies. Google’s five years of testing self-piloting tech could give them an advantage. But regardless, the numerous advancements in self-driving may drive competition to producing the safest cars yet.