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Google Hires Airbnb’s Shaun Stewart to ‘Commercialize’ Its Self-Driving Vehicles

Google's self-driving car prototype.

Google’s self-driving car department has a new boss.

The tech titan has hired Airbnb executive Shaun Stewart to take over from the project’s chief technical officer Chris Urmson, who left the position earlier this month.

Stewart will answer directly to CEO John Krafcik, who was top boss at Hyundai before coming to oversee the project last September.

According to Reuters, Stewart will be responsible for “commercializing” Google’s self-driving technology. Although no one really knows what exactly that means, Engadget reports that Stewart could work on translating Google’s self-driving technology “into a robotic ride-for-hire service.”

Stewart, it seems,is well suited to his new job. At Airbnb, he was responsible for setting up the company’s vacation rentals business. Before that, he was chief executive of Jetsetter.

Google is likely the company the furthest ahead in the race to get autonomous cars into the hands of consumers, be it through a driving service or by putting autonomous vehicles on the market. It already has more than 50 test vehicles on the road in four U.S. cities: Mountain View, CA, Austin, TX, Kirkland, WA and Metro Phoenix, AZ with more than 1.3 million miles logged.  Google began testing its own self-driving prototypes on California streets last June. Before that the company was testing Lexus prototypes equipped with its software and sensors.

Google has said it hopes to have self-driving cars in the hands of consumers by 2020.

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