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Google Picks Former Hyundai CEO as Its Self-Driving Car CEO

John Krafcik, a 25-year car industry vet, is Google's first self-driving car CEO.


Google’s self-driving car project has its first chief executive: John Krafcik, a 25-year car industry veteran who previously led Hyundai’s business in the U.S.

Google announced the news on Sunday night. Krafcik is currently the president of TrueCar, an online platform for automobile purchases. From 2008 to 2013, he was the CEO for Hyundai Motor America, and he served a 14-year stint before that in product development for Ford. He starts at Google later this month.

Krafcik is Google’s first major hire from the auto industry, arriving as the company grows more ambitious with its ventures in the field. Its homemade self-driving cars hit the road in California this summer and received permission to run tests in Texas.

John Krafcik, CEO, Google self-driving car project
John Krafcik, CEO, Google self-driving car project

That ambition is also pitting Google against car companies, which all have existing (albeit less developed) autonomous driving programs of their own and are uneasy about moves from tech companies into their sector. Toyota, which recently pledged a $150 million investment in autonomous driving, is perhaps the most resistant, but other automakers are also nervous of Google’s self-driving initiative, as well as its in-car software, Android Auto. Google has said publicly that it intends to partner with manufacturers, not produce its own cars.

Chris Urmson, who has served as director of the self-driving car project, will remain its technical director with Krafcik stepping into a new CEO role.

“This is a great opportunity to help Google develop the enormous potential of self-driving cars,” Krafcik said in a statement. “This technology can save thousands of lives, give millions of people greater mobility and free us from a lot of the things we find frustrating about driving today. I can’t wait to get started.”

Although the self-driving car program now has a CEO, it remains within the Google X lab. “The project is not becoming an Alphabet company at this stage,” a Google spokesperson said, referring to the new corporate umbrella, “though it’s certainly a good candidate to become one at some point in the future.”

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