Takedra Mawakana, co-CEO of autonomous driving technology company Waymo, urged Dean’s Speaker’s Series attendees to embrace the ambiguity required to bring true innovation to the mobility industry.
“One of the reasons this industry is so exciting to me is nothing is set,” said Mawakana, who joined Mountain View-based Waymo in 2017, and was named co-CEO in 2021. “Everything is up in the air. The regulatory environment isn’t set, the customer adoption plan isn’t set, and the technology isn’t done. I thought my relationship with ambiguity was quite advanced … but ambiguity at every level means never walking on solid ground.“
Some things are going to go wrong, she added, and that’s OK. “You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.”
Waymo operates in San Francisco and metropolitan Phoenix, with plans to expand to Los Angeles. Its taxi service, called Waymo One, does not require a human driver.
Watch the DSS talk here.
Prior to joining Waymo, Mawakana led global teams at eBay, Yahoo, AOL and Startec. She said she joined Waymo because the company reflects her values, with its mission is to make it safe and easy for people and things to get where they’re going. Research has shown that Waymo technology can prevent 75 percent of vehicle collisions, while reducing serious injury risk by 93 percent.
Mawakana said that two of her uncles were killed in “completely avoidable” traffic accidents, which has committed her to making driving safer.
“I’m just deeply tied to the mission,” she said. “What I can’t say is that the journey is always going to be easy, but I can say it feels worth it when it’s deeply tied to what you believe in, which is very different than chasing the next software release.”
Mawakana’s talk was sponsored by the Black Business Student Association and the Haas Transportation & Mobility Club.