Google is really trying to get the ball -- or should we say tire -- rolling on its self-driving car project. The company just hired one of Airbnb’s top executives, Shaun Stewart. Stewart’s job will be to aid in the commercialization of Google’s self-driving car technology.
Stewart’s specialty lies in building and scaling businesses. He helped to setup Airbnb’s vacation rentals business. Before that he was chief executive of Jetsetter, a company that was later acquired by TripAdvisor. Stewart will report to ex-Hyundai executive John Krafcik, who was hired as the project’s CEO in 2015.
Google recently lost Chris Urmson, a former Carnegie Mellon professor and the chief technical officer of the self-driving car project. Urmson had worked with Google since 2008 and with DARPA prior to that, but wanted to tackle a new project. He stated, “After leading our cars through the human equivalent of 150 years of driving and helping our project make the leap from pure research to developing a product that we hope someday anyone will be able to use, I am ready for a fresh challenge.”
Unlike Apple, which has kept its “Project Titan” under wraps, Google has been actively and publicly working on its self-driving car. In the last year Google has expanded operations to four cities and opened an engineering tech center in Michigan. It has doubled the number of test vehicles to sixty and has driven 1.8 million total miles. The company has also started a collaboration with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
Google has also patented several inventions related to its self-driving car. In May, Google patented a “sticky” hood that could capture pedestrians like flies in case of an accident. Google then created an algorithm that teaches its cars how and when to properly honk a horn. Most recently, Google’s cars have been taught to recognize cyclists’ hand signals and anticipate their movements without signals.