Google’s Waymo Poaches Ebay Exec to Negotiate Self-Driving Car Legislation

March 21, 2017, 10:06 AM UTC

Waymo, the Google self-driving project that spun out to become a business under Alphabet, has hired away an eBay executive to head up its public policy and government affairs department as the company races to commercialize its autonomous vehicle technology.

Waymo CEO John Krafcik said in a post on LinkedIn that the company hired Tekedra Mawakana as vice president of public policy and government affairs. ReCode reported the hiring prior to the public post. Mawakana held a similar position at eBay (EBAY). She also held public policy and deputy general counsel positions at Yahoo and AOL.

“Tekedra is a smart and creative leader who brings deep knowledge of the public policy issues facing complex technology and innovative business models,” Krafcik said on his LinkedIn post. “As we take fully self-driving cars to the roads, Tekedra will work with policymakers at all levels to realize the enormous safety, mobility, and economic benefits of this technology.”

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The new executive appointment marks another milestone for the new company. It also comes at a time of intense activity at Waymo, including a lawsuit against self-driving truck startup Otto and its parent company Uber for patent infringement and stealing trade secrets, and attempts at the state level to shape legislation that could shut out certain companies from testing and deploying self-driving cars.

Waymo spun out of X—Google’s moonshot factory— to become a company under Alphabet (GOOGL) in December. Since then, there’s been a flurry of activity and public announcements from the company, including an unveiling of its autonomous Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans, and that its in formal talks to integrate Honda vehicles with autonomous technology.

Meanwhile, the federal government and states have begun to weigh in on the development and testing of self-driving cars. And not necessarily to the benefit of Waymo.

In December, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a package of automaker-backed bills that allow testing of vehicles without steering wheels, pedals, or needed human control. The laws are viewed as among the most permissive in the U.S.

However, companies including Google and Uber were initially dissatisfied with some language in one bill, SB 996, which allows only “motor vehicle manufacturers” to participate in a so-called SAVE project. A SAVE project is an initiative that allows eligible automakers to deploy a network of on-demand self-driving taxis.

The bill appeared to prohibit their ability to operate an on-demand network of autonomous vehicles used by the public. That language was later modified.

Legislation with similar restrictive language has been shopped around in other states.

Mawakana, who also announced her move to Waymo on LinkedIn, wrote that she is inspired by the company’s mission to make self-driving technology accessible to everyone, making transportation safe and easy.

“While Waymo is perhaps best known for their innovative self-driving technology, I’m most drawn to their strong commitment to safety, and their thoughtful approach to shaping policies in this fast-evolving space. I look forward to building on this solid foundation,” she wrote in the post.