Google’s Self-Driving Car Project appears to be picking up steam. The company has put more cars on the streets in recent months and has been finding ways to introduce its autonomous cars to the public. In another signal that the self-driving car is moving from pet project to serious venture, Google hired auto industry veteran John Krafcik to head up the department.
Krafcik comes to Google by way of TrueCar, a service that helps car buyers avoid overpaying by showing them what other shoppers paid for similar vehicles to the one they’re considering. Prior to his role in TrueCar, Krafcik worked at Ford and later was CEO of Hyundai America. He’s known for his engineering experience and his interest in technology as it affects the auto industry.
“Yes, true: I’m joining the Google Self-Driving Car project in late September,” Krafcik tweeted Sunday. “This is a great opportunity to help Google develop the enormous potential of self-driving cars. I can’t wait to get started. Self-driving cars could save 1000s of lives, give people greater mobility and free us from things we find frustrating about driving today.
Krafcik replaces Chris Urmson, who will remain with the project.
Although the project is clearly getting plenty of attention from Google, it’s still a part of the Google X division. It will be interesting to see whether Google moves the self-driving car out of the incubator down the road.
For now, Google’s Self-Driving Car Project is limited mostly to Austin, TX and Google’s home, Mountain View, CA. The cars have driven more than a million miles “alone,” though the cars always carry a passenger who is trained to take over control of the vehicle in the event that it’s needed. So far, all accidents involving Google’s Lexus SUV and tiny prototype vehicles have been the fault of other drivers on the road.