Driverless car guru Chris Urmson to compete with Google
The former Google CTO is founding his own autonomous driving company and attracting an “A-Team” of top engineers.
When CTO Chris Urmson left Google’s self-driving car unit in August, industry observers were fairly sure he would return to the scene sooner or later. After all, Urmson is often described as a trailblazer of autonomous driving: he created the code running Google’s driverless vehicle software. Just four months after quitting Google, it seems he is back. As reported by Recode, Urmson plans to found his own driverless car company early next year – giving several established players a run for their money.
Sources told Recode that his company will focus on full autonomous driving package solutions – combining software, data and hardware that can be sold to carmakers to retrofit their conventional vehicles. Recode describes it as “a manner not unlike how Google launched its Android efforts with both mobile software and hardware.”
While Urmson has not yet amassed any funding, a source told Recode that this should not be any cause for concern: “People will throw piles of money at Chris because he is the real deal.” Not surprisingly, Urmson is aiming to surround himself with a team of high-profile experts. He has reportedly already talked to numerous top engineers from rivals such as Uber, Apple and Tesla. “He could easily attract an A-team of techies who want to strike out on their own,” Recode concludes.
Interestingly, Urmson is reportedly not bound by any non-compete agreement with Google. However, he cannot use any code he built while working there. Urmson is not the only high-ranking engineer who has left the company in recent months to set up an individual project. Two experts on machine vision technology started Nuro.Ai, a company that focuses on artificial intelligence. And Anthony Levandovski, co-founder of Google’s self-driving car project, founded autonomous trucking start-up Otto – which was recently acquired by Uber.