When Google lost Chris Urmson earlier this month, it might have seemed that the self-driving car project would be derailed without its chief technical officer. But Google has bounced back in a unique—in true Google fashion—by bringing on Airbnb executive Shaun Stewart to helm the future of the self-driving car project, according to Alphabe spokesman Johnny Luu.
And just what is this future he is supposed to manage?
Well, apparently, Google is taking its autonomous vehicle department into a commercial direction. With the project passed seven years in development—with a major push in the last 12 months—it seems the tech company is ready to see a little return on investment.
It seems that Google has brought Stewart on as an experienced technology executive with specialized knowledge in building and scaling businesses. This is, of course, exactly what they need in terms of monetizing autonomous cars. However, the specific details of his duties have not yet been revealed. From the looks of things, though, it would seem that Google may be interested in converting their self-driving cars into a ride-hailing service to compete with the likes of Uber and Lyft.
Still, Stewart set up the vacation rental business at Airbnb and before that, he was the a chief executive at Jetsetter, a company that was eventually soaked up by TripAdvisor. Specifically, though, Stewart has more experience commercializing vehicles than the former CEO, whose background is far more academic than service-industry-based.
Stewart will now report to John Krafcik, the ex-Hyundai executive Google hired in 2015 to be the CEO of the self-driving car project. At the time, Google had slated the technology will be ready for production by 2020; they also announced they were seeking development partnerships with major global automakers to see this through to fruition.
The company has also brought on San Francisco city official and transportation policy expert Tim Papandreou and Kevin Vosen, who will act as the unit’s first general counsel.
At present, Google has roughly 60 test vehicles on the road. Collectively, these five dozen or so cars have covered approximately 1.8 million driver-less miles.