For Alphabet’s Waymo, technology might not be the biggest challenge to putting self-driving cars on the road — it’s making sure there’s a regulatory framework that allows those cars on the road. Appropriately, Waymo has hired a new vice president for public policy, Tekedra Mawakana, who will help the company fight for the regulation it wants. She’ll help “realize the enormous safety, mobility and economic benefits” of autonomous tech, Waymo CEO John Krafcik tells Recode.
This definitely isn’t Mawakana’s first dance with tech policy. She was most recently heading up government relations at eBay. And before that, she was Yahoo’s deputy general counsel as well as a key policy official at AOL. This is an executive who knows how to navigate the political world, which is more than a little important when you’re rallying support for a very young industry.
And it’s definitely a complex situation, at least in the US. States like Waymo’s home of California may be relatively open to self-driving cars, but others (such as Georgia, Maryland, Illinois and Tennessee) have considered slapping restrictions on autonomous rides. That’s not even considering other countries, and the firm will no doubt have to counter opposition from driver lobbying groups trying to protect jobs. Mawakana will have to strike a careful balance between pushing for loose-enough regulations and respecting very real concerns about job security and safety.