Uber’s Driverless Car Program Executive Quits as Court Case Rages On

Uber’s driverless car program lead has quit after just one year working for the ride-hailing company

Sherif Marakby, the Vice President of Global Vehicle Programs at Uber, announced his departure from the car sharing company on Monday. Marakby joined Uber in April 2016 after 25 years working for Ford Motor Co. Marakby is just the latest executive to abandon ship after Google affiliate Waymo sued Uber for data theft.

Marakby was a key player in launching Uber’s driverless ride-hailing pilot program in Pittsburgh. Autonomous Vehicle expert Grayson Brulte suspects that Marakby will return to Ford as Uber’s “growing pains” continue. Brulte, the co-founder of Brulte & Company, told Driverless:

Currently, there are a lot of opportunities for an executive with the experience and proven track-record of Mr. Marakby. Only Mr. Marakby truly knows what is next. However, I would not be surprised to see him re-join Ford with a focus on launching Ford’s autonomous ride-sharing program and integrating Argo AI’s technology.

The recent exodus of Uber employees also includes former president Jeff Jones and former head of communications Rachel Whetstone. Uber was also racked with accusations of sexism after a former engineer’s damning blog post.

But in a statement released to Driverless, Marakby didn’t specify why he called it quits with Travis Kalanick’s company after a year:

“Self-driving is one of the most interesting challenges I’ve worked on in my career, and I’m grateful to have contributed to what will soon be a safer future for everyone. — Sherif Marakby (Former Vice President of Global Vehicle Programs at Uber)”

Uber also skirted around the issue when this Driverless reporter reached out for comment. Instead, a spokesperson praised Marakby’s “deep experience and knowledge of the automotive industry.” They did not respond to Driverless’s queries about Marakby’s reasons for leaving.

However, Brulte thinks the cab company can recover from the negative PR of 2017, but only if the necessary changes are made internally:

Travis Kalanick should follow the Domino’s Pizza playbook and make a very public admission of Uber’s countless mistakes and missteps. Own the mistakes, be open and honest about those mistakes, do not try to sugar coat them. The public will reward Uber for honesty, only if the company changes their culture and fully embraces the public admission of mistakes and missteps. Then work to repair the brand’s image and improve the service.

Brulte pointed out that both the market and public rewarded Dominio’s Pizza for being honest about how bad its pizza was in 2010. The pizza giant shot a series of commercials inside their test kitchen, whilst admitting that their pies weren’t up to scratch.

In March of this year, Dominos’s CEO Patrick Doyle told CBS News that they knew it would be a “breakthrough” PR move, which led to a double-digit increase in sales. Indeed, Brulte thinks following this lead is the way forward for Kalanick’s company as well: “If Uber does the same and dramatically cuts loses, the company will eventually have a very successful IPO,” Brulte told Driverless.

As featured in Driverless on April 18, 2017