High pay was a reason why a lot of engineers quit from the Google self-driving car project

Google's self-driving car project, now called Waymo, has seen its fair share of departures over the last couple of years. But a latest report in Bloomberg gives a very unconventional reason for the departure of some employees - they were reportedly paid a lot of money. And that is being debated as one of the reasons as to why they left.


Google's self-driving car project, now called Waymo, has seen its fair share of departures over the last couple of years. But a latest report in Bloomberg gives a very unconventional reason for the departure of some employees - they were reportedly paid a lot of money. And that is being debated as one of the reasons as to why they left.

It looks like the supersized payouts based on the value of Google's self-driving car project were so high that a lot of the veterans decided that they didn't need the job security anymore, according to sources who spoke to Bloomberg.

The structure was quite unusual from the start. In the sense that employees' salaries were a function of the performance of the project. Along with the cash salaries, a lot of the staffers got bonuses and equity in the business. As years passed by, Google added a multiplier to some or all of the above benefits. This multiplier was tied in to the valuation of the self-driving car division, which has yet to release a commercial product. Bloomberg says that one employee had a multiplier of 16 applied to his bonuses and equity collected over four years - thereby ballooning the total payout in multiples of millions of dollars.

Google's self-driving car project has been in operation since 2010, and by 2015 it had logged in over a million autonomous miles. Other companies such as Toyota Motor Corp and Tesla Inc have also announced their own autonomous vehicles now, and the space is quite competitive with rivals looking to poach talent.

According to Alphabet's chief financial officer Ruth Porat, the operating expenses in Q4 2015 rose by 14 percent to around $6.6bn. Most of these were driven by R&D expenses from the 'Other Bets' division of Alphabet, according to Porat. While Porat did not specifically mention the self-driving car project, a person familiar with the matter hinted that these numbers were associated with the car project compensations.

Some of the popular departures from Google's car project include Chris Urmson who led the project. Urmson has quit to found his own startup. Some former employees created Otto, the self driving truck which was acquired by Uber Inc.

Bryan Salesky, a former Google car executive founded Argo AI, which recently say a $1bn investment from Ford Motors.


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