Alphabet's self-driving subsidiary Waymo poached Tesla's safety expert Matthew Schwall, the company revealed Sunday. Mr. Schwall has been with Tesla for nearly four years, having worked as a Director of Field Performance Engineering. His role saw him analyze performance and safety data of the company's vehicles and devise ways for improving both under Chief Technology Officer JB Straubel. Mr. Schwall also served as the Palo Alto, California-based firm's main point of technical contact with all transportation safety regulators such as the National Transportation Safety Board and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The executive's role was global in nature and also required him to regularly correspond with such government agencies in both Europe and Asia.
Mr. Schwall joined Waymo's safety unit helmed by Ron Medford, the former NHTSA Deputy Administrator, having assumed his new responsibilities last Monday. The move comes at a time when the NTSB is conducting four separate probes into crashes of Tesla-made electric vehicles. The overall level of scrutiny over high-tech cars is now on the rise in the United States due to the increased frequency of accidents, with one of the more high-profile ones being what's believed to be the world's first self-driving crash with a pedestrian fatality that occurred this March in Tempe, Arizona. The accident saw an autonomous Volvo XC90 SUV from Uber hit a jaywalking woman who ended up succumbing to her injuries, with recent reports indicating the car's sensors picked up on the victim but ended up ignoring her by mistake.
Mr. Schwall, a Stanford Ph.D. holder, is expected to perform similar duties at Waymo to those he had while at Tesla, though details of his role haven't been clarified by the Google spin-off. Waymo is presently the only company that's testing self-driving vehicles without human backup drivers, albeit such safety measures are still taken whenever its autonomous car prototypes are navigating public roads.