Google Names Veteran Auto Exec Krafcik to Lead Self-Driving Car Program

September 15, 2015

Google is adding a veteran automotive executive to run its program focused on developing self-driving cars.

The technology giant said late Sunday that former Hyundai and Ford Motor Co. executive John Krafcik will become CEO of its driverless car project in late September. Krafcik most recently served as an executive at TrueCar, which provides market-based pricing information on new and used cars.

Google Inc. stunned the auto industry in 2010 by announcing that it was straying beyond its primary, Internet search and advertising business to develop self-driving vehicles.

Traditional automakers like Mercedes and Toyota are working to gradually automate functions in the car until vehicles become fully capable of driving themselves, possibly by 2025. Google has promised to deliver a driverless car in five years, but many experts find that timeframe ambitious.

There are legal and ethical issues to work through before driverless cars go mainstream. Google’s cars also require extremely detailed mapping, which has only been done in limited areas. Convincing drivers that driverless technology is safe is another hurdle that the company must overcome.

The Mountain View, California, company has been testing several dozen self-driving cars near its Silicon Valley headquarters, and more recently in Austin, Texas. To learn the tricks of driving, its cars have driven more than 1 million miles on California highways or city streets.

Some experts predict that the traditional car companies will continue to make the cars consumers buy and park in their driveway, relying on their decades-long history of research and development and a deep understanding of drivers’ needs and habits. When the tech companies roll out driverless cars, they likely will be self-driving taxis for urban areas.

Google shares fell $4.29 to $621.48 in early trading.

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