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Google hires ex-Hyundai America CEO to lead self-driving car project

Google has hired a new CEO for its self-driving car project. John Krafcik, who worked at Ford and was president and CEO of Hyundai's American operations before joining automotive price-comparison site TrueCar, will take the position in late September. In a statement, the veteran of the automobile industry said that Google's technology "can save thousands of lives, give millions of people greater mobility, and free us from a lot of the things we find frustrating about driving today."

Krafcik has a background in automobile manufacturing, having worked on two "lean production" manifestos during his time at MIT, but a Google spokesperson told Automotive News that his hiring did not indicate the company would start producing cars itself. "We know what we're good at," Google's Courtney Hohne said, "and we'll partner with many different companies to bring this technology into the world safely." Chris Urmson, the current lead of the self-driving car project, will remain to lead technical development.

Google is not yet ready to make its self-driving car project an Alphabet company

Google has been testing its self-driving cars on public roads in recent months, with the cute little vehicles spotted on the streets of Mountain View, California, and Austin, Texas. Early reports from Google indicate that the vehicles are safe, successfully avoiding pedestrians, cyclists, and duck-chasing grannies. But although testing seems to be going well, there's still a lot of research to be done and legislation to be laid down before the cars become mainstream.

While Krafcik's hiring is an indication that Google wants to turn its self-driving car project into a commercial operation eventually, Google says that it's not going to become a full-fledged company under the Alphabet umbrella just yet. For now, the project — soon to be run by Krafcik — will remain a part of Google X, the search giant's experimental research and development wing.