Sergey Brin

Summary List Placement

In 2011, Google had a problem. Two years earlier, it had hired a team of about a dozen engineers to create a self-driving car. The team members of what was then called Project Chauffeur (and is now Waymo, a standalone company under the Alphabet umbrella), had made amazing progress. 

In their first 18 months of work, the young roboticists had watched their fleet of sensor-covered Toyota Prius hybrids cover more than 100,000 miles on California’s highways. More impressively, they had conquered the “Larry 1K” — a challenge crafted by Google co-founder Larry Page, which demanded the cars navigate a series of 100-mile routes that included some of the trickiest roads in the state. After decades of middling results from the country’s best defense contractors and universities, the Google team had built something that looked like a proper self-driving car. 

That success netted the teammates — many of whom became leaders in the field, including Anthony Levandowski, Aurora CEO Chris Urmson, Nuro founders Dave Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu, Kodiak Robotics CEO Don Burnette, and Waymo CTO Dmitri Dolgov — nice bonuses and a blowout party at the Palo Alto home of their leader, Sebastian Thrun. It marked the start of more focused efforts to figure out how to commercialize autonomous tech. 

And it made the young engineers realize they had created something that could be worth an incredible amount of money. (Indeed, Intel has predicted the market for self-driving-tech will be worth $7 trillion a year by 2050.) 

It was Google, though, that owned the results of their work. It was a nice place to work, sure. Especially for a team largely made up of former academics, unaccustomed to perks like free food and effectively limitless funding. But some team members thought that they deserved to be more than mere salaried employees. 

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Read more: Google paid a star self-driving engineer $120 million. Then he quit, joined a rival, and headed to prison.

“We realized we were something special,” one engineer said in an interview, speaking on the condition of anonymity. He and others, including Levandowski, wanted to reap the benefits that came with owning a revolutionary transportation technology. 

So, led by Levandowski, some of the engineers indicated to Page and other Google higher-ups that they were willing to walk. They would find independent venture capitalist funding and start their work over, no big deal for a team that had done so much so quickly. “It was like collective bargaining,” Levandowski said in an interview.

Google, of course, wanted to keep the effort in-house. And it so happened that the would-be rebellion came at a time when the company was looking for new ways to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit that had made it a behemoth to begin with. As Charles Duhigg wrote in “The New Yorker” in 2018, Page “often complained that the company had become bloated, and had lost the hacker mentality that had fueled its initial success.” 

So Page authorized the creation of a new kind of …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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