Waymo CEO John Krafcik is leaving the self-driving car company

John Krafcik Waymo
Waymo’s COO and CTO will fill the now-vacant position as co-CEOs.

John Krafcik, the chief executive of Alphabet’s autonomous-driving company, Waymo, is stepping down, the company announced Friday.

“After five and a half exhilarating years leading this team, I’ve decided to depart from my CEO role with Waymo and kick-off new adventures,” Krafcik said in a blog post.

Krafcik will be replaced by two current Waymo executives – COO Dmitri Dolgov and CTO Tekedra Mawakana – who will head the firm as co-CEOs, the company said. Krafcik will stay on as an advisor to the firm, and it was not immediately clear if he has plans to move to a new role outside the company.

Read more: How to nail the key interview questions that Jeff Bezos-backed self-driving startup Aurora asks job candidates

Before heading up Waymo, Krafcik served as the CEO of Hyundai Motor North America and of car-buying website True Car.

Waymo, which was founded in 2009 as the Google Self-Driving Car Project, is working on autonomous-driving technology for future ride-hailing and delivery services. The system, Waymo Driver, has logged tens of millions of miles of driving on US roads and is considered by many to be the most advanced self-driving system in development.

In October 2020, Waymo announced plans to begin offering fully driverless rides to customers in Phoenix.

Read Waymo CEO John Krafcik’s full email to staff:

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A Ford executive took aim at Tesla, calling its self-driving software ‘vaporware,’ as competition between Tesla and the Mustang Mach-E heats up

Mustang Mach E GT Performance Edition 03
Mustang Mach-E GT Performance Edition.

  • A Ford executive took to Twitter to compare Tesla’s Model Y with Ford’s electric car.
  • The Mustang Mach-E will soon have similar self-driving features as Tesla offers for $10,000.
  • The new electric SUV is already starting to cut into Tesla’s sales.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A Ford executive took to Twitter on Sunday to call Tesla out on its “full self-driving” software, which is currently in beta.

Mike Levine, the automaker’s North America product communications manager, called Tesla’s software vaporware.

“Return those $10K full-self driving deposits,” he wrote on Twitter. “Mach-E customers drive away with a car. Tesla customers drive off with vaporware.”

Levine referenced a recent report from the Associated Press, comparing the Mach-E to Tesla’s Model Y.

The executive was responding to a tweet about dealers tacking on additional fees to the Mustang Mach-E.

“Any Mach-E customer who sees a dealer adding a markup can reach out to me,” Levin wrote. “I’ll help them find another dealer. Good luck reaching out to Tesla to get your FSD.”

Recent data shows that just months after its full release, Ford’s Mustang Mach-E has already begun to cut into Tesla’s sales. In February, Tesla’s share of the US electric-car market fell to 69% from 81% the previous year due to interest in the Mach-E, according to a report from Morgan Stanley.

Ford is also looking to get into autonomous cars. In March, the automaker announced that its new Active Driver Assist program would be available for the Mustang Mach-E later this year for a $600 activation fee.

The software enables hands-free driving and would have level 2 autonomy, similar to Tesla’s current self-driving capabilities.

This is not the first time Tesla’s self-driving software has been criticized

After Tesla’s beta software was released, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said: “No vehicle available for purchase today is capable of driving itself.”

Soon after the software became available, there were several videos on Youtube showing the car missing medians and traffic lights.

Tesla launched the software beta in October and has since offered it as a $10,000 add-on. Tesla plans to release a more advanced version as a subscription offering this summer.

As a luxury car brand, Tesla’s self-driving software is designed to allow cars to park themselves, change lanes, and identify stop signs as well as potential obstructions. The program still requires a licensed operator. Similarly, Tesla’s autopilot system assists drivers by braking and steering for them when enabled.

At least three drivers have died while using Tesla’s Autopilot. The software has also been associated with several accidents. Just last week, a Tesla car that authorities said was using the autopilot feature crashed into a police car in Michigan. It was the second accident believed to be related to the software in Michigan this month.

Tesla’s self-driving plans are a large focus because it could help it compete with Ford’s Mach-E, as the two are set to go head-to-head.

Ford’s electric SUV release has been largely successful. The car was awarded SUV of the year by the North American Car, Truck, and Utility Vehicle of the Year Award in January, and early testers – including other Wall Street analysts – also gave it positive marks. JPMorgan said the vehicle could challenge Tesla inasmuch as Ford has more history and brand recognition.

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Apple could reportedly make the Apple Car without a big-name automaker as negotiations hit speed bumps

Tim Cook
  • Apple may not pursue a partnership with a big automotive company, Bloomberg reports.
  • The company could use a contract manufacturer to assemble its cars, while sourcing its own parts.
  • Foxconn and Magna International could be likely partners for an Apple Car, per Bloomberg.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Apple is considering working with a contract manufacturer to find its own car pieces and assemble them, a strategy that wouldn’t involve a partnership with an automotive company, according to a new Bloomberg report from Mark Gurman and Gabrielle Coppola.

If it decides to go that route, the tech company would be employing a similar strategy to its approach to iPhone manufacturing, and one that would leave out big-name car companies, which Apple has been talking to in recent years.

Over the past few months, there has been a lot of speculation regarding which company Apple could choose to partner with in the development of its first car, which is codenamed Project Titan.

In December, Reuters reported Apple was planning to release an electric self-driving car by 2024, but Apple car speculation dates back to 2014.

This year, Apple’s talks with major automakers appear to have reached a stalemate so far, but Bloomberg says contract manufacturers Foxconn and Magna International are top contenders for a potential Apple car partnership.

Apple has been in talks with several companies including Hyundai and Kia. Bloomberg reports the company even met with Ferrari last year, but that the talks didn’t lead anywhere. A deal with a major automaker would require Apple to convince a big-name car company to manufacture a product that could end up being a major competitor to the carmaker’s own offerings, which Bloomberg reports has been a tough sell.

If the tech company employed a similar tactic to its iPhone manufacturing process, it would be able to avoid building its own factories and would be able to source its own material, all while avoiding relying on a potential competitor.

Magna was reported to have been in talks with Apple when the company first expressed interest in creating a car years ago. The manufacturing company also assembles cars for several car companies, including BMW.

On Tuesday, BMW’s Chief Financial Officer Nicolas Peter told Bloomberg that he’s not worried about competing with Apple.

If the tech company launched an electric car it could cut into other automaker’s margins, including Tesla. The car, entitled “Project Titan” would allow Apple a slice of a $10 trillion market, according to Morgan Stanley.

In January, analysts at Morgan Stanley said an Apple car could also potentially bring financial ruin, especially if the company follows its current business model, which is more vertically integrated than many other car companies.

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Elon Musk says Tesla has held ‘preliminary discussions’ to license its Autopilot software to other manufacturers

Elon Musk
  • Elon Musk said Tesla has held early talks to license its software with other car manufacturers.
  • The CEO has said in the past he is not looking to edge out other competitors, but rather simply advance the technology.
  • Musk said the “full self-driving” software may be functional without an operator within the year, reaching Level 5 autonomy.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company has been in early talks to share its self-driving software with other manufacturers during an earnings call Wednesday.

“We’ve had some preliminary discussions about licensing Autopilot to other OEMs,” Musk said during the call.

Musk emphasized the company is not looking to keep the software to itself, but is waiting for the service to become more reliable before sharing it with outside companies.

“We need to probably do a little more work to prove that Autopilot is capable of full self driving,” Musk said. “Then we’re more than happy to license that to other car companies.”

The CEO has said in the past that he is not looking to edge out other competitors, but rather simply advance the technology.

The software was released as a public beta to a select group of consumers – Musk said it was around 1,000 – in October. The software still requires a licensed human operator, though Musk said he’s hopeful it could be capable of Level 5 autonomy within the year.

“The software is improving dramatically,” Musk said.

When the feature entered public beta, users quickly reported multiple errors, with YouTube videos showing the software missing intersections and boulevards. 

Musk says Tesla is focusing on improving Tesla’s neural network through 3-D labeling, gathering videos, and labeling elements so that the program can learn.

“We believe we have the best neural-net-training software in the world by an order of magnitude,” Musk said.

Tesla’s plan is to create a car that will drive better and be more reliable than the average human.

Tesla is not the only company pursuing full automation. In October, Waymo, a Google subsidiary, launched an entirely driverless ride service in Phoenix. General Motors, Volkswagen, and Ford have also been pushing for autonomous vehicles, with Volkswagen and Ford joining together to support Argo Ai, an autonomous driving technology company.

The company has gone head to head in the past with other automakers pursuing fully automated vehicles. Recently, Waymo CEO John Krafcik said Tesla was “no competition at all” when it came to making autonomous vehicles.

However, Musk said he believes the company could deliver on his promise of a fully-automated system sooner rather than later.

“From my standpoint, it looks like a very clear and obvious path towards a vehicle that will drive safer than a person,” Musk said. “I don’t really see any obstacles here.”

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Waymo’s CEO says Tesla is ‘no competitor at all’ when it comes to autonomous vehicles, according to reports

John Krafcik Waymo
Waymo CEO John Krafcik.

Waymo CEO John Krafcik said Tesla is “no competitor at all” for its autonomous vehicles, according to multiple reports citing an interview with Germany’s Manager Magazin.

“For us, Tesla is not a competitor at all,” Krafcik said, according to Ars Technica

He added: “We manufacture a completely autonomous driving system. Tesla is an automaker that is developing a really good driver assistance system.”

Waymo and Tesla did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Sunday. 

Read more: Early Rivian investors explain the 3 factors that could make the Amazon-backed startup the next Tesla

The two vehicle companies have sparred recently, with Waymo earlier this month dropping its “self-driving” description, as an apparent dig at Tesla. 

On its website, Tesla describes its Autopilot feature as being the future of self-driving vehicles “in almost all circumstances.” Among its features are eight cameras with 360-degree visibility, 12 sensors, and a forward-facing radar, according to the company. 

Waymo said in a blog post: “We’re hopeful that consistency will help differentiate the fully autonomous technology Waymo is developing from driver-assist technologies (sometimes erroneously referred to as ‘self-driving’ technologies) that require oversight from licensed human drivers for safe operation.”

elon musk journalists crowd no mask tesla construction
Elon Musk talks to journalists at the construction site of the Tesla Giga-Factory in Grünheide near Berlin.

In the Manager Magazin interview published on Friday, Krafcik said Tesla is “developing a really good driver-assistance system,” according to Bloomberg

Tesla’s website states: “All new Tesla cars have the hardware needed in the future for full self-driving in almost all circumstances.” Among its features are eight cameras with 360-degree visibility, 12 sensors, and a forward-facing radar, according to the company. 

CEO Elon Musk said last year that he was confident Tesla’s features could achieve “level five” autonomy, where human intervention isn’t required. Waymo had previously developed an Autopilot-like system, but reportedly scrapped it.

But Waymo’s sensor setup is “orders of magnitude better,” said Krafcik, according to automotive news blog Jalopnik. The difference, he said, is that Waymo is working on fully autonomous vehicles, while Tesla is only adding autonomous features to its vehicles, according to the report. 

“It is a misconception that you can just keep developing a driver assistance system until one day you can magically leap to a fully autonomous driving system,” said Krafcik, according to Jalopnik and Bloomberg. 

Waymo also has significantly reduced the cost of building an autonomous vehicle, according to the report. 

“The costs for the technology are greatly overestimated – at least in our case,” Krafcik said, according to Forbes

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Elon Musk makes clear his stance on self-driving cars, AI oversight, and his ‘ad for Mars’

Elon Musk
Elon Musk.

  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk sat down with Mathias Döpfner, the CEO of Business Insider’s parent company, Axel Springer, to discuss the prospect of a self-driving car revolution, the deep implications of artificial intelligence, and his ambitions for space exploration. 
  • “I’m definitely not trying to take anyone’s steering wheel away from them,” Musk said, clarifying his bullish stance on self-driving cars. 
  • The tech billionaire also warned, “We need to be careful with the advent of AI. And who’s using it, and who controls it, and is it going to be in the best interest of the people?” 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In an interview with Mathias Döpfner, the CEO of Axel Springer, Business Insider’s parent company, Elon Musk revealed his thoughts on self-driving cars, oversight of artificial intelligence, and reasons behind his quest to be buried on Mars.

Musk, who had announced in October Tesla’s release of a beta version of its long-awaited “full self-driving” software, clarified that he is “definitely not trying to take anyone’s steering wheel away from them.”

“I’m just saying what will most likely occur, and I am certain about this, is that self-driving will become much safer than a human driver. Probably by a factor of 10,” he told Döpfner, adding that the bar for whether a person will be able to drive or not will be much more “stringent” in the future when autonomous driving is “10 times safer.”

But as Business Insider’s Graham Rapier reported, the top US safety regulator, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has repeated that “no vehicle available for purchase today is capable of driving itself.” 

“The most advanced vehicle technologies available for purchase today provide driver assistance and require a fully attentive human driver at all times performing the driving task and monitoring the surrounding environment. Abusing these technologies is, at a minimum, distracted driving. Every State in the Nation holds the driver responsible for the safe operation of the vehicle,” the agency said.

Musk explained while artificial intelligence was a key priority among his various projects, “it’s important to have some kind of government oversight.”

“We need to be careful with the advent of AI. And who’s using it, and who controls it, and is it going to be in the best interest of the people?” he told Döpfner.

When Döpfner asked if, in the future, machines will “serve” mankind or vice versa, Musk responded:
“Well, sometimes when I look at everyone on their phone all the time, I wonder, who is the master of who?”

“Yes, people are constantly responding to things on their phone. They feel like they own the phone, but perhaps they should ask themselves whether the phone owns them,” Musk added.

“And I think it’s perhaps less a question of whether AI is serving humanity or vice versa. Rather, there is a symbiosis. And hopefully, that symbiosis is one that mutually benefits digital and biological intelligence.”

elon musk spacex launch.JPG

Throughout 2020, Musk has made clear his plans to achieve space exploration in the very near future. In January, he shared details on Twitter about his plans to send 1 million people to Mars by 2050. (Later in October, he said SpaceX has a “fighting chance” of sending an uncrewed Starship rocket to Mars in 2024.) This past summer he reportedly told his employees in an internal email that SpaceX would focus on Starship as its primary goal. And in November, SpaceX launched its 23rd mission of 2020 – a record number of flights carried out in a year, Business Insider’s Kate Duffy reported. 

“It’s not that Mars is a plan B, it’s that we want to become a multi-planet species and a spacefaring civilization,” Musk told  Döpfner when asked why SpaceX was so important to him. 

Musk said he “most likely” expected to see the first human on Mars in six years. He said he himself would probably go into space in “two or three years.”

“Mars is a real planet so we can create a real civilization there,” he said, adding, “There’s also this terrible terror, but it’s going to be a great adventure, and be one of the most exciting things that ever happened, if you don’t die. That would be my ad for Mars.”

Read the full interview here.



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