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Krafcik steps down as CEO of autonomous driving leader Waymo

John Krafcik stepped down as the Waymo CEO on Friday. (Photo: Waymo)

Waymo CEO John Krafcik stepped down Friday from leading the recognized autonomous driving leader that operates a ride-hailing robo taxi service near Phoenix and is developing self-driving Class 8 trucks.

The surprise announcement came via a blog post Krafcik wrote on the company’s website. He said it was time to move on to new challenges after five and a half years overseeing explosive growth, making Waymo an independent subsidiary of Google parent Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL) and raising $3.25 billion. Krafcik said he would continue as an adviser.

John Krafcik stepped down at Waymo on Friday.

“My time leading Waymo has been the capstone of my career,” Krafcik wrote. “Together we’ve achieved remarkable firsts as we develop, deploy and commercialize our fully autonomous Waymo Driver and work to make our roads safer and mobility more accessible.”

Based on its tens of millions of miles of autonomous driving, Waymo is adapting its fifth-generation Driver to commercial trucks. Waymo Via is being tested with trucking hubs in Arizona and Texas. It also has a partnership to provide the software stack to Daimler Trucks.

Waymo Via has other partnerships in the works, the company said last month during a virtual drive of its fourth-generation Level 4 system.

Game changer

A former CEO of Hyundai Motor America who also worked at Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F), Krafcik was president of the car-buying website TrueCar (NASDAQ: TRUE) before becoming CEO at Waymo in September 2015.

“I think Krafcik mostly did what he was brought in to do, which was to turn the company from an R&D project into a commercialized product,” Mike Ramsey, a Gartner Inc. vice president and automotive and smart mobility analyst, told FreightWaves. “He did a lot — at least the company did a lot while he was there.

“They are not all the way there yet,” Ramsey said. “And there are lots of things to be figured out, like what is their actual business strategy going forward. That is a bit murky. But they got lots of outside investment. They spread into new areas. They have a much more solid presence in terms of communications about what they are doing than they did previously.”

Krafcik’s successors

Waymo’s chief technology and chief operating officers, Dmitri Dolgov and Tekedra Mawakana,will share the title of co-chief executive.

Dolgov is a founder of Google’s self-driving car project, developing Waymo Driver after joining in 2009. Doglov studied physics and math at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. He later earned a doctorate in computer science from the University of Michigan.

Mawakana has focused on commercializing Waymo’s self-driving system. She formerly worked at eBay Inc. and Yahoo. Mawakana has a law degree from Columbia University.

“We’re committed to working alongside you to build, deploy and commercialize the Waymo driver and drive the success of our incredible team and this company,” Mawakana and Dolgov wrote in a joint statement to employees. “We’re energized by the road and opportunity ahead of us.”

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Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.

Alan Adler

Alan Adler is an award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press and the Detroit Free Press. He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.