Waymo announced two major executive hires as it races to launch a commercial self-driving car service

  • Waymo has hired a former NTSB head as its first chief safety officer, the company announced Tuesday.
  • Amee Chandee will become Waymo’s first chief commercial officer.
  • Hersman and Chandee join secretive Alphabet subsidiary as it races to launch commercial rides in self-driving cars.

Waymo, Alphabet’s secretive self-driving car startup, announced two new executives on Tuesday as it races to launch commercial rides as soon as next month.

Deborah Hersman, former chair of the National Transportation Safety Board and CEO of the National Safety Council, will become Waymo’s first-ever chief safety officer in January.

“I’ve dedicated my career to promoting safety in our communities,” she said in a press release. “I’m joining Waymo because of the potential to make an even greater impact on reducing road injuries and fatalities.”

Amee Chandee is also joining Waymo as chief commercial officer. She has previously held posts at Alibaba, Walmart, Staples, and McKinsey.

“I’m proud to welcome two talented and experienced executives in the field of safety and business operations who will lead us into our next phase of growth,” Waymo CEO John Krafcik said in a press release. “As we begin to make our self-driving cars available to the public, safety will continue to be front-and-center of everything we do. Debbie has dedicated her career to safety and will lead our efforts to evolve our world-class safety program so we can deliver on our mission to make our roads safer.”

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Earlier this month, Krafcik said the company is on track to begin offering commercial rides in its self-driving cars in Phoenix as early as next month. However, The Information’s Amir Efrati reported Tuesday that those rides will be done with a human “safety driver” on-board to ensure against any accidents.

A backup driver’s inclusion is significant as a whole slew of tech companies, from Waymo to Uber and Tesla race to get their self-driving tech up to speed for fully autonomous driving. And even then, those safety drivers aren’t always perfect.

In October, a Waymo car side-swiped a motorcycle in California, sending the rider to the hospital. The company said that its software would have likely avoided the accident, and that it was the human driver’s fault.

“Incidents like this are what motivate all of us at Waymo to work diligently and safely to bring our technology to roads,” said Waymo’s Krafcik, “because this is the type of situation self-driving vehicles can prevent.”

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