Overpaid Experts Quit Google’s Self-Driving-Car Project

February 15, 2017

Have employees at Google’s self-driving-car company lost their minds or just their jobs? Google’s talented employees have been pushed out. Why, you ask? Money.

The Bloomberg report suggests that self-driving-car experts were paid so much money, that they quit.

[Image Source: Waymo]

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has lost several of its leading self-driving-car experts. Early experts had an unusual compensation system where they were offered large payouts which were based on the valuation of Alphabet’s self-driving-car division.

By the end of 2015, the numbers were so large that several experts did not require the job security any longer. According to some familiar with the happening of the company, this made them open to other job opportunities.

The large payout resulted in employees having minimal incentive to remain at the company. As a result of this, some employees left to launch their own self-driving-car startups.

The company has lost several significant employees over the past year. These include Chris Urmson, the former head of the division, and Bryan Salesky, starter of a company called Argo AI which received a $1 billion investment from Ford last week.

It is still unclear as to who received these payouts and how much the payouts were. However, two people called it “F-you money”.

Although the large payout might not have been the sole factor that caused Alphabet’s employees to quit, it seems like it was one of the driving forces.

In December, Waymo launched under Alphabet as a standalone business. The company now had a new system in place with a more uniform pay structure. This treated all employees the same, said a person familiar with the situation.

The original program, however, became so costly that it was brought to the public’s attention. A top executive at Alphabet highlighted the high costs of the program last year in an attempt to explain the jump in expenses.

The system began in 2010, not long after the Google released its first self-driving vehicle. It was designed to tie together employees’ fortune to the project’s performance. Employees were given a cash salary as well as bonuses and equity in the company. After several years, Google multiplied these shares. It then paid out some or all to employees.

At the early 2016 conference, the Chief Financial Officer, Ruth Porat, suggested an alternative approach to incentives at Other Bets in the future. “It is about getting more ambitious things done. We’re doing that in a framework to ensure we are disciplined with our resources, and this was just calling out a milestone established some time ago,” she said.

SEE ALSO: Google’s Self-Driving Vehicles Will Detect Police Cars

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