Chief technical officer of Google’s self-driving car project, Chris Urmson, shows one of the company’s cars to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Google chairman Eric Schmidt. Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
After nearly a decade with the company, the chief technical officer of Google’s self-driving car project left the company—along with two other veterans of the car division. The decisions to leave come under a new leader on the project, who reportedly didn’t mesh well with some longtime employees.
Urmson announced his departure from Google on Friday in a post on Medium, recapping the seven and a half years he spent on the car project before saying that Friday was his last day as chief technical officer. The program was still a secret when Urmson joined, and the New York Times reports that he took over the lead position in 2013 after Stanford computer scientist Sebastian Thrun left.
According to the New York Times, people with knowledge of the project said two other engineers, Dave Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu, left to found an unannounced start-up company. They follow another group of Google employees who left to begin making self-driving trucks at the start-up company Otto, which was introduced in May.
In his Medium post, Urmson said he “decided the time is right to step down and find [his] next adventure.” But a new adventure may not be the entire reason behind his departure, as the New York Times points out that Google brought on a former executive of Hyundai America, John Krafcik, as chief of the car unit last year. Urmson and Krafcik didn’t exactly get along, and according to the New York Times, Urmson was “unhappy with the direction of the car project under Mr. Krafcik’s leadership.”
The car unit has yet to disclose the business model under Krafcik, according to Recode. Urmson took the summer off from the project before ultimately deciding to leave, but said in his Medium post that he has “every confidence that the mission is in capable hands.”
Huh. Sounds like it.