The executive who led the transformation of Google’s self-driving car project into a separate company valued at billions of dollars is stepping down after more than five years in office.
John Krafcik announced his retirement as CEO of Waymo, a company spun off from Google, in a blog post on Friday expressing his desire to enjoy life when the world emerges from the pandemic.
“I look forward to some refreshment, reconnecting with old friends and family, and discovering new parts of the world,” wrote 59-year-old Krafcik.
Two of Krafcik’s top lieutenants will replace him as co-CEOs. Dmitri Dolgov, who has worked on self-driving cars since Waymo’s start at Google in 2009, will focus on autonomous vehicle technology. Tekedra Mawakana, an attorney who was Waymo’s chief operating officer, will handle the business side of the operation.
“My time as Head of Waymo was the keystone of my career,” wrote Krafcik. “Together we made remarkable advances in developing, deploying and commercializing our fully autonomous Waymo driver and working to make our roads safer and more mobile.”
Krafcik will remain an advisor to Waymo, a company that has established itself as the clear leader in autonomous driving since it was hired by Google in 2015. Not long after that, Google’s self-driving division transformed into Waymo, an Alphabet company that is also owned by Google’s parents.
Under the leadership of Krafcik, Waymo partnered with several major automakers and launched the first hail service that picked up passengers without a driver or anyone else in the vehicles. This service called Waymo One only operates in the Phoenix metropolitan area. However, Waymo plans to expand into other markets as the company advances technology that is expected to transform the auto industry.
Waymo’s advances have resulted in an estimated market value of approximately $ 30 billion, based on analyst estimates last year after the company raised $ 2.25 billion in its first round of investments from outside Alphabet. However, that valuation fell dramatically from 2018 when a Morgan Stanley research report estimated Waymo’s value at approximately $ 175 billion.
The enormous swing reflects the challenges of building self-driving cars that can safely navigate the roads while still dealing with traditional vehicles under human control. This task has proven to be far more difficult than Waymo and dozens of other companies that were working on self-driving technology five or six years ago.
Despite advances in autonomous driving, Waymo is not believed to have ever made any money during Krafcik’s reign. Waymo does not disclose its financial results. The company operates in an alphabet segment called “Other Bets,” which includes several other far-flung projects funded by the huge profits from Google’s digital advertising empire.
Alphabet’s “Other Bets” have lost nearly $ 13 billion in the past three years.