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Alphabet nabbed a new VP as it gears up for government battles over self-driving car regulation

Its self-driving car unit, Waymo, poached a government affairs guru from eBay.

Justin Sullivan / Getty

Alphabet isn’t just readying for a legal war against Uber over self-driving cars: It’s also arming itself for a few policy battles with Washington and state governments around the country.


To that end, its self-driving car endeavor, Waymo, quietly has hired Tekedra Mawakana as its new vice president of public policy and government affairs, according to three sources familiar with the move.

“As we take fully self-driving cars to the roads, Tekedra will work with policymakers at all levels to realize the enormous safety, mobility and economic benefits of this technology,” said John Krafcik, the CEO of Waymo, in a statement to Recode on Monday confirming the hire.

Mawakana arrives after a roughly year-long stint as VP of global government relations at eBay, and she’s as seasoned as they come in her field. She previously served as Yahoo’s deputy general counsel, and before that, held a few policy positions over the course of about a dozen years at AOL.

Mawakana’s hire arrives as Alphabet prepares to contend in court that one of Waymo’s former engineers, Anthony Levandowski, absconded with the company’s proprietary designs before joining Uber.

But she’ll instead take on a regulatory, government-focused role with Waymo, at a time when policymakers around the country have their eyes on the self-driving car industry.

At least four states — Georgia, Maryland, Illinois and Tennessee — have contemplated whether to impose new restrictions on autonomous vehicles, perhaps to the chagrin of companies like Google. So too have lawmakers in the nation’s capital started to ask questions about the nascent industry and the privacy and safety risks it may pose.

Even the Trump administration has flashed early interest in self-driving cars. Shortly after her Senate confirmation, new Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao announced she would review the guidelines put in place by former President Barack Obama — and consult with tech giants — to determine if there are ways to speed up the deployment of autonomous vehicles.

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