While roads crisscrossed with self-driving vehicles won’t become a reality for a couple more years, Alphabet Inc. (the conglomerate that owns Google) is gearing up to introduce autonomous vehicles into the marketplace with the hire of a top executive from Airbnb.
Shaun Stewart, Airbnb’s former global head of vacation rentals, is joining Google as director of the Google Self-Driving Car Project, spokesman Johnny Luu announced on August 26. Stewart’s primary role is to help commercialize Google’s self-driving technology, which has been in development since 2009.
Stewart’s onboarding follows the departure of Chris Urmson, who was chief technical officer of the Google Self-Driving Car Project. Urmson was the project team leader and chief public spokesman until ex-Hyundai executive John Krafcik was hired by Google last year as the project’s CEO. Stewart will be reporting to Krafcik.
Stewart is an experienced tech executive specializing in building and scaling enterprises. He was the CEO of Jetsetter, which was acquired by TripAdvisor, and also spearheaded the growth of Airbnb, an online marketplace that helps individuals list, find, and rent vacation homes for a fee.
The future certainly looks bright for autonomous vehicles. Analysts from IHS Automotive project that nearly 21 million self-driving vehicles will populate roads around the world by 2035.
The United States is expected to lead the way in self-driving vehicle adoption, even as it continues to grapple with regulatory and auto insurance challenges, as well as consumer concerns. Starting with several thousand self-driving vehicles in 2020, there could be as many as 4.5 million autonomous vehicles on US roads by 2035.
Uber’s first self-driving fleet to launch this month
The insurance industry needs a tech upgrade: Opinion
Here’s what the driverless car means for your insurance agency