The boss of the most powerful self-driving car technology company in the world has a Porsche 911 GT3 on order. And a Caterham in his garage. And two more Porsche 911s nestling alongside that: a 997-series C2 S and a 964-series Targa.
Easy natured and always the evangelist, John Krafcik – CEO of Waymo, part of Google – breaks into a ready smile as he can see my brain computing that one. “We are not the enemy. Yes, you can have self-driving cars and enthusiasts’ cars,” he says, grinning. “What we’re doing at Waymo does not mean the end of driving.
If you just want to get somewhere, we hope you’ll use one of our cars. Hail it on the app, get driven there autonomously, hop out.
“But people will always want to own cars – and if you’re buying something, we want it to be special.
I can see how we might disrupt the utilitarian market, because we can likely cover those needs in a cost-effective way, but the beauty for car enthusiasts is that every car that gets sold will have to be more interesting. It’ll have a purpose.”
Krafcik, 56, and Waymo were thrust further into the spotlight last month when it was announced that the firm had committed to buy up to 20,000 Jaguar I-Paces, which it will offer to the public to use autonomously from 2020. To look at him, you’d think he’d spent his life in Silicon Valley – there’s the floppy hair, stubbly chin and jeans, for starters – but in fact he spent decades in the car industry, working his way through the ranks (see separate story, right) before answering the call from Google’s founders to head up Waymo in 2016.
Ask him if the firm ever had plans – as long rumoured – to make cars as well as develop self-driving technology and he’s coy, saying only that “I’m not aware of it”. But when Waymo was launched at the tail end of 2016, those rumours were, for now at least, put firmly to bed.