Waymo Hires Ex-Tesla Engineer to Lead Self-Driving Hardware

  • Jeyanchandran was Tesla’s director of hardware engineering
  • High-profile hire is latest in Silicon Valley talent war

Race To Build Self-Driving Cars Accelerates

Waymo has hired Satish Jeyachandran, Tesla Inc.’s former director of hardware engineering, as the mobility division created by Google parent Alphabet Inc. moves closer to commercializing its self-driving vehicle technology.

Jeyachandran, 38, spent nearly seven years at Tesla before leaving earlier this year. He will lead Waymo’s hardware team, overseeing the development and integration of cameras, radar, lidar, and computer vision, while working closely with the company’s software team.

"I wanted to join Waymo because it has a talented, mission-driven team that has made impressive advancements in self-driving hardware," Jeyachandran said in a statement on LinkedIn. "This technology offers incredible potential to save millions of lives."

The hire is the latest in a series of high-profile talent acquisitions and departures to rock the fiercely competitive autonomous driving landscape. Established automakers, suppliers, tech companies and a raft of startups are racing to bring self-driving cars to market on the promise that the technology will save lives and transform vehicle ownership. Engineers with expertise in hardware, software, artificial intelligence, and computer vision--particularly those with experience leading teams--are in incredibly high demand.

Chris Urmson, the former head of Google’s car project, is now running an autonomous driving startup with another former Tesla executive. And the prior hardware chief at Waymo, Bryan Salesky, co-founded his own self-driving startup, Argo AI, which received the majority of its investment from Ford Motor Co.

Since Waymo spun out of Alphabet’s X lab in December, it has thrown resources and talent at the hardware underpinning its autonomous vehicles, aggressively hiring engineers specializing in the field.

"A few years ago, Waymo made the decision to start building our own self driving vision system, radar and LiDAR in house," Waymo Chief Executive Officer John Krafcik said in a statement on LinkedIn. "This has been crucial to improving the quality of our self-driving technology, and bringing down cost. With Satish’s expertise, we’ll be able to further advance our self-driving hardware, and bring our technology to more people, more quickly."

Waymo recently started a free, experimental service to ferry hundreds of people around Phoenix in an effort to get consumers comfortable with the technology.

— With assistance by Mark Bergen

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