Tesla autopilot engineer joins Google's autonomous car team

Google -- or rather, Alphabet -- is spending a lot of time and money to develop self-driving technology, and it just added a big new name to its autonomous vehicle team. 

Stephen Lam/Reuters/File
The new Google at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.

Google -- or rather, Alphabet -- is spending a lot of time and money to develop self-driving technology, even though rumors suggest  that it has no plans to sell cars. Now, the company has added a new face to its autonomous vehicle team, and he arrives with quite an impressive resume.

His name is Robert Rose, and his most recent stint was at Tesla Motors. Though only there six months, Rose was hired by Tesla to perfect its recently launchedAutopilot software.

Rose also spent the better part of six years working at another Elon Musk endeavor, SpaceX. Hired as one of the company's many software engineers, after two years on the job, he landed the title of "Director of Flight Software".

Prior gigs included work for HP, Sony, and Vicarious, the latter of which is focused on "machine learning software", also known as artificial intelligence. Translation: the guy has spent a lot of time writing code that teaches computers to think.

So, what's the big deal? Big companies poach top talent from their competitorsall the time. Just a few months ago, Apple was accused of luring battery engineers to its own, top-secret autonomous car project.

What's important here is the players involved and the moment in automotive history in which we find ourselves. Specifically:

  • In the field of autonomous vehicles, Rose is a very big name. Is he the only software engineer on LinkedIn? Not even close. But he's the only one who's been in charge of developing semi-autonomous car software that's actually rolled out to the public. You could argue that the men and women who've created software for autonomous braking, lane-assist, and other features have similar cred, but Tesla's hands-off-the-wheel (but not really) Autopilot is a step beyond those programs.
  • Rose's hiring shows just how serious Google is about self-driving technology. Google's autonomous car project has been putt-putting alongfor six years. The company could've continued at its current pace, licensing its self-driving technology -- or potentially selling autonomous cars -- around 2020, when many other automakers will do the same. But bringing Rose onboard suggests that Google wants to get far, far ahead of the crowd.
  • Rose's hiring also suggests where real innovation is happening in the autonomous car world. Established engineers like Rose can pretty much write their own tickets. They typically go where the work is most challenging and rewarding. Given the hirings we've seen over the past year, Tesla, Google, and Apple seem to be setting the pace for autonomous cars -- which raises the question of how automakers like Nissan, Toyota, and Ford plan to catch up. Based on one particular tweet from Musk, they could be facing quite an uphill climb:

Game on, folks.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Tesla autopilot engineer joins Google's autonomous car team
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today