Waymo CEO Krafcik Steps Down — Does It Mean Anything?

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The longtime CEO of Waymo, John Krafcik, has been leading what many consider to be the leading autonomous driving company since 2015 — 6 years. Though, the news is that Krafcik and/or higher-ups at Alphabet decided it was time for him to find a new passion. He is stepping down as CEO and Waymo will now be led by co-CEOs Dmitri Dolgov, previously Chief Technology Officer (CTO), and Tekedra Mawakana, previously Chief Operating Officer (COO).

The top question is: does this mean anything?

Is Krafcik stepping down because he has failed to deliver on key targets? Is commercial rollout going too slowly? Are autonomous capabilities progressing too slowly? Has Krafcik accomplished what he set out to accomplish and is now ready for either new challenges or early retirement?

Notably, Krafcik recently got into a little communications tussle with Tesla. Krafcik claimed that Tesla’s “full self-driving” system isn’t the right approach to a fully autonomous vehicle. He considers it a dead end.

“It is a misconception that you can simply develop a driver-assistance system further until one day you can magically jump to a fully autonomous driving system,” Krafcik said in an interview with Manager Magazin.

Naturally, Tesla CEO Elon Musk sees it differently. He expects that the only way to get to truly useful self-driving vehicles is through the vision + deep machine learning system that Tesla is continuously improving. Or, at the least, he expects that’s the quickest way to do so.

It must feel like a frantic race to solve a giant puzzle to many of the members of these teams. That’s certainly what it looks like from the outside. With the different approaches, though, it’s not just a race — one of the companies may be putting the puzzle together in the wrong way.

To my surprise, Tesla has better AI hardware & software than Waymo (money)

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 25, 2021

Tesla is steadily moving all NNs to 8 camera surround video. This will enable superhuman self-driving.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 25, 2021

(NNs = neural networks.)

The entire “stack” from data collection through labeling & inference has to be in surround video. This is a hard problem. Critically, however, this does not require a hardware change to cars in field.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 25, 2021

To get people where they need to go, safely & easily, we’ll offer Waymo One in cities & communities around the world. You can use it in PHX today.

To move packages & other things, Waymo Via will connect shippers & customers.

That’s the plan. https://t.co/6F2bu6tvEs /2

— John Krafcik (@johnkrafcik) December 28, 2020

Who’s right? Who’s wrong? And when does all this autonomy talk turn into true robotaxis?

 

 

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