Waymo Chief John Krafcik Resigns, Co-CEOs Tapped To Run Alphabet’s Self-Driving Tech Giant

John Krafcik, the auto industry veteran who’s run Waymo for over five years, is stepping down as CEO of the Alphabet Inc. self-driving tech giant and is being replaced by two high-ranking company executives. 

Kracik announced the surprise news via a Twitter post on Friday. Takedra Mawakana, Waymo’s chief operating officer, and Dmitri Dolgov, its long-time CTO, are both being promoted to co-CEOs, the company said. Krafcik will continue to work with Waymo as an advisor.

“After 5 exhilarating years leading this team, I’ve decided to depart from my CEO role at Waymo & kick-off new adventures,” he said on Twitter. “To start, I’m looking forward to a refresh period, reconnecting with old friends & family, and discovering new parts of the world.”

A Stanford University-trained engineer who spent most of his career with automakers Hyundai Motor and Ford, Krafcik was tapped to take over Google’s self-driving car project in 2015. He transitioned from an R&D program to the largest autonomous technology company in the U.S., creating the Waymo brand name and launching the first public robotaxi project in suburban Phoenix. More recently the company has worked to build up its autonomous logistics business, dubbed Waymo Via, amid rising competition to develop self-driving trucks and vans from competitors including TuSimple and Aurora. 

While Waymo has been the benchmark for self-driving vehicles for more than a decade, its efforts to commercialize the technology have developed more slowly than many expected. The company has said it generates revenue from partnerships with several companies it works with, though has never disclosed financial details. It has has raised billions of dollars from outside investors, in addition to billions of dollars of support from Alphabet over the years. 

“The challenge going forward for Waymo is to find a path to meaningful revenue and meaningful profitability,” says Grayson Brulte, president of consultancy Brulte & Co., who closely tracks developments in the autonomous vehicle industry. “In particular, Waymo has yet to demonstrate a meaningful path to profitability for the robotaxi business.”

Krafcik joined Google almost six years ago, after long stints as Hyundai’s U.S. CEO and as a chief engineer with Ford. His automotive career started in 1984, when he was among the first engineers hired at New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., the joint-venture auto plant created by Toyota and General Motors in Fremont, California. The plant shut down in 2009 but Toyota sold it to Tesla in 2010, and it’s been the electric vehicle maker’s main auto-assembly plant ever since.

Computer scientist Dolgov is an original member of the self-driving tech all-stars Google recruited more than a decade ago in a moonshot effort to create the first self-driving vehicles.

Mawakana, who holds a law degree from Columbia University, initially joined Waymo as its head of policy in March 2017, before being promoted to COO in 2019. She previously worked for Yahoo and eBay and is member of Intuit’s board of directors.

Notably, she is also just the second woman of color to lead an autonomous vehicle tech company, joining Zoox CEO Aicha Evans.

As featured in Forbes on April 2, 2021