Chris Urmson, the former chief technology officer in charge of Google’s self-driving project, is reportedly preparing to launch a new company that will compete with Mountain View and others building autonomous transport systems.
The self-driving guru, regarded as one of the three key people in the early stages of Google’s car project, left the company in August. In a Medium post, he said: “If I can find another project that turns into an obsession and becomes something more, I will consider myself twice lucky.”
Shortly after leaving, Urmson was approached by self-driving startups and other Silicon Valley companies, but according to ReCode he has decided to launch his own self-funded venture next year. He has been in talks with engineers from Uber, Tesla, and Apple about joining the project for the past month.
Urmson wants to provide the full self-driving package, which will include software, data, and hardware. This full package may be licensed and altered by automakers, similar to Microsoft licensing Windows to OEM manufacturers.
Urmson may not be able to take colleagues with him
Terms of his departure from Google are not public knowledge, but ReCode speculates that Urmson will not be able to use any of code from the search giant’s self-driving project and may not be able to coax ex-colleagues to work at his new startup.
The self-driving market is stacked with talented startups and large automakers are starting to spend billions on research and development. While Urmson is a well-known figure in the industry, starting from scratch may be difficult if he cannot find a defect in the current crop of self-driving projects.
At the same time, Google is starting to ramp up its efforts in the self-driving space. A report last week said the company is looking to purchase more real-estate and hire more executives, before the project graduates from X Labs.