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Google hires former Hyundai, TrueCar exec to steer self-driving car project

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(Read caption) John Krafcik talks at the North American International Auto Show, in Detroit. Google says former Hyundai and Ford Motor Co. executive Krafcik will become CEO of its program focused on developing self-driving cars in late September 2015. Krafcik most recently served as an executive at TrueCar, which provides market-based pricing information on new and used cars.

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Google’s autonomous car project now has its own CEO in the form of auto industry veteran John Krafcik. The 53-year-old has previously worked for the Ford Motor Company [NYSE:F] as well as Hyundai where he ran operations in the United States from 2008 to 2013. Most recently he was working for automotive pricing and information hub TrueCar.

Krafcik starts his new role later this month and will be based at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California. Previously, Chris Urmson, a former Carnegie Mellon University robotics researcher, was in charge of the autonomous car project. Urmson is expected to continue leading technical development while Krafcik, with his extensive industry knowledge and contacts, will likely spearhead the commercial aspects.

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Google launched its autonomous car project in 2009 and still groups the project under the Google X banner. Google X is a semi-secret division at the tech giant which aims to develop new technologies.

Google’s goal is to develop a fully autonomous car, and already the company has a handful of prototypes being tested on public roads in California and Texas. What isn’t clear is whether Google plans to eventually build and sell autonomous cars, use the cars for an Uber-like taxi service or license the technology to established automakers. It's also entirely possible that all three scenarios are being looked at.