Chris Urmson, head of team creating Google’s self-driving car, quits

Chris Urmson, head of team creating Google’s self-driving car, quits

Chris Urmson, an important member of the team behind Google’s self-driving car, is leaving the company. In 2009, Urmson, a Carnegie Mellon University research scientist, joined Google to help the company in its mission of develop a self-driving car, which at that time was a top-secret.

He took the charge of the team involved in self-driving car after Sebastian Thrun, founder of Google X laboratory, left the company in 2013. Urmson is quitting the position after Google took decision last year to hire John Krafcik, chief executive of Hyundai America, to head the car project.

Google’s self driving car project has been considered to be a pioneer in autonomous vehicle technology, but the commercial version of the car is many years away. It is being said that Urmson is not happy with the company’s decision of giving the reins of the project to Krafcik.

In fact, it is being rumored that Urmson had a heated argument with Larry Page about the where the project is heading. After the incident, Urmson took the summer off and has now decided to leave the company.

On Thursday, Urmson has unveiled his decision to the self-driving car team. It is the latest in a series of departures by important technologists working on the autonomous car projects. Urmson said that for now, he has not decided what would be his next project.

Urmson mentioned, “If I can find another project that turns into an obsession and becomes something more, I will consider myself twice lucky. I have every confidence that the mission is in capable hands”.

When Urmson was a researcher at Carnegie Mellon, he was a member of a team, which stood second in the 2005 Darpa Grand Challenge contest for autonomous vehicles.

"After leading our cars through the human equivalent of 150 years of driving and helping our project make the leap from pure research to developing a product that we hope someday anyone will be able to use, I am ready for a fresh challenge," he wrote on Medium. His last day as CTO was Friday," according to a news report published by Tech News Today.

“I’ve decided the time is right to step down and find my next adventure,” said Mr. Urmsonin the blog post. “It has been a tremendous privilege and honor to be part of a team that has been at the forefront of bringing this life-saving technology to the world…I have every confidence that the mission is in capable hands.”

According to a story published on the topic by NY Times, "A roboticist and crucial member of the team that created Google’s self-driving car is leaving the company, the latest in a string of departures by important technologists working on the autonomous car project. Chris Urmson, a Carnegie Mellon University research scientist, joined Google in 2009 to help create the then-secret effort. He took over leadership of the team after Sebastian Thrun, the Stanford computer scientist and founder of Google X laboratory, left in 2013."

The X research group, often called Google’s “moonshot” division, is under increasing pressure to show that at some point the company can expect a financial windfall from its projects. Google’s self-driving car project has been a pioneer in autonomous vehicle technology, but a commercial version of the car is still likely to be several years away.

A report published in Medium News revealed, "My own journey with self-driving cars had begun a few years earlier with the DARPA grand challenges, where my team at Carnegie Mellon competed to navigate a vehicle autonomously across the desert and later through a 60-mile mock city. Driving an average of 14mph, with no pedestrians and relatively well-behaved traffic, my team from Carnegie Mellon came out on top. Compared to the thousands of miles Google’s self-driving fleet now travel on real roads each day, this may seem like a drop in the ocean; but even then, we saw this as a step towards creating something that could improve road safety, save lives and transform mobility."

Now, 1.8 million miles of autonomous driving later, I’ve decided the time is right to step down and find my next adventure. Today will be my last day on the project as CTO. After leading our cars through the human equivalent of 150 years of driving and helping our project make the leap from pure research to developing a product that we hope someday anyone will be able to use, I am ready for a fresh challenge.


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