Something is brewing inside Alphabet Inc’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Google Self-driving car division. And it may not be something good, as we have got a latest news that Chris Urmson, the former director of Google X under which its driverless car division formed, leaves the company.
Chris Urmson, a Carnegie Mellon University research scientist, announced his departure from the Google Self-driving car division in a blog post this week. He was a roboticist and a crucial member of the team which created self-driving cars for Google.
He joined the secret team of Google in 2009, in an effort to create a new platform for the company. He worked under the leadership of Sebastian Thrun, who founded Google X laboratory, and also a Stanford computer scientist. When Sebastian Thrun left the company in 2013, Chris has taken over the lead position since then.
This departure decision came after Alphabet hiring the former president and chief executive of Hyundai America John Krafcik as the chief of cars division. Alphabet, Inc wants to separate the car division like it did with Google web businesses, under one umbrella.
Alphabet, Inc (formerly Google Inc) has responded. Johnny Luu, the spokesperson of the company has confirmed the news. In an email message to The New York Times, he said:
“Seven years ago, the idea that a car could drive itself wasn’t much more than an idea. Chris has been a vital force for the project, helping the team move from a research phase to a point where this lifesaving technology will soon become a reality. He departs with our warmest wishes.”
According to a report that cites two unnamed former Google employees, Mr. Urmson was unhappy about the company’s direction on self-driving car division under the leadership of John Krafcik, and reportedly quarreled with Larry Page privately.
Meanwhile, the spokesperson has declined to comment on this. Chris Urmson informed about his decision to employees on Thrusday and published a farewell post on Medium on Friday afternoon. “If I can find another project that turns into an obsession and becomes something more, I will consider myself twice lucky,” he wrote in the post. “I have every confidence that the mission is in capable hands.”
Google’s autonomous driving technology has come a long way in its seven and half years’ journey. Although it has never entered the commercial segment, the self-driving car section has shown significant improvements with near to practical results. Recently, it has also partnered with Fiat-Chrysler to bring the tech to the automobile giant’s minivans.
This is not the first instance where a key Google employee is leaving the company. Earlier this year, former Google Car engineer Anthony Levandowski and Google Map’s product lead Lior Ron left the firm and jointly formed a new self-driving truck startup in San Francisco. And, recently, two more Google employees Jiajun Zhu and Dave Ferguson, who were experts in the company’s machine vision tech have left the company to found an unannounced startup.