Waymo, the Google-backed autonomous vehicle development company, just published a blog on its site that revealed two important things: First, employees are known as “Waymonauts,” and perhaps of equal importance, the CEO, John Krafcik, is stepping down. I hope this isn’t because he’s upset that people have been egging Waymo’s test vehicles?
Krafcik has been CEO of Waymo since 2015, and before that was CEO of Hyundai Motor America, and well before that was chief engineer for the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator, and before that worked at the GM/Toyota joint NUMMI plant in California.
Krafcik is also known for coining the term “lean production,” a type of production based on The Toyota Way, the system of production developed by Toyota starting in the 1930s and evolving into the Toyota Production System.
Under Krafcik, Waymo deployed the first autonomous taxi-like service of any kind, in Chandler, Arizona. While the system is operational, it’s really best thought of as an experimental system, as Waymo’s research and development of autonomous driving is still very much in progress.
As far as what Krafcik is doing next or why he decided to leave, all that’s known for sure is what he’s revealed in that last blog post, which, frankly, is pretty vague:
“To start, I’m looking forward to a refresh period, reconnecting with old friends and family, and discovering new parts of the world. And I’ll continue to serve as an advisor to Waymo, as you expand the world’s first autonomous public ride-hailing service, Waymo One, and ramp our autonomous delivery product with Waymo Via.”
The most exiting part is likely “discovering new parts of the world.” I hope he means Atlantis.
Dmitri Dolgov and Tekedra Mawakana will act as co-CEOs moving forward, possibly attempting to sit together in one big desk chair and getting into hilarious slap-fights, but this is just speculation.
A blog on the popular business-dating site LinkedIn gives a bit more context on his departure:
“So now, with the fully autonomous Waymo One ride-hailing service open to all in our launch area of Metro Phoenix, and with the fifth generation of the Waymo Driver being prepared for deployment in ride-hailing and goods delivery, it’s a wonderful opportunity for me to pass the baton to Tekedra and Dmitri as Waymo’s co-CEOs. (Why co-CEOs? HBR explains how well this can work here – and knowing Tekedra and Dmitri as well as I do - having seen their brilliance, vision, and commitment in play for years - I assure you they are very well suited for this.)”
Krafcik seems to be determined to continue coining terms, though, stating:
My wife Leila and I have been using the term “coupbatical” (a portmanteau of “couple” and “sabbatical”)
At this point, it doesn’t appear that Waymo will be making any major changes in focus or methodology, though I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see.