Innovation

Waymo CEO John Krafcik wins 'Disruptor of the Year' Shift Award, for autonomous minivan, from Roadshow by CNET

Here's why Waymo CEO John Krafcik was honored as the top disruptor by CNET at the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

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The winners of CNET Roadshow's Shift Awards at the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Image: Hope Reese/TechRepublic

On Tuesday, to honor the tech that has become essential to innovation in the auto industry, Roadshow by CNET presented the Shift Awards at the 2017 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. Presented by Tim Stevens, editor-in-chief of Roadshow, and Brian Cooley, editor-at-large at CNET, the awards recognize "the greatest progressive technology in the industry," said Stevens.

The 3D-printed awards, in the shape of a car shifter, were selected by the Roadshow by CNET team and covered five categories. Here they are:

1. Driveline technology of the year

This award looks at the tech between the engine and the wheels that helps the car seamlessly navigate the roads. Contenders for the 2017 award were: BMW proactive drive assistant, Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid, and Chevrolet Bolt EV, powered with tech from LG. Winner? The Chevrolet Bolt EV.

SEE: Watch Roadshow's awards and interviews from the 2017 Detroit Auto Show right here (CNET)

2. Safety technology of the year

This award goes to advanced tech that works to make things like driver assist and autonomous driving possible. Contenders were: Audi's laser headlight tech, Audi traffic light information system, and Cadillac's rear camera mirror. Winner: Audi traffic light information system.

3. Cabin technology of the year

The cabin tech award looks inside the car for the latest tech. Contenders were Ford Sync 3, Android Auto for phones, and Chrysler Pacifica Uconnect theater, which won the award. This system provides a platform for entertainment and education for kids, with the ability to display things like math flashcards.

4. Disruptor of the year

This award goes to the individual or team that have made the biggest impact on the auto industry. The winner for 2017? Waymo CEO John Krafcik. Waymo is Google's self-driving project spinoff that has produced the world's first driverless minivan.

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Image: Hope Reese/TechRepublic

The vehicle of the year considered three contenders: BMW's M2, Chevrolet Bolt EV, and the Chrysler Pacifica minivan. The Chevrolet Bolt EV was the winner.

(Here's a look at who won Roadshow's Shift Awards in 2016.)

From a tech perspective, Roadshow's disruptor award is a signal of innovation.

"Krafcik is one of the biggest leaders when it comes to pushing forward the testing and regulations of autonomous vehicles in the US," said Stevens. "He's worked really closely with the US DOT to redefine regulations around autonomous vehicles, and Waymo is one of the most progressive companies for testing autonomous vehicles."

"Waymo has done so much to move forward the mindset around regulation and a realistic vision about how self-driving cars will become mainstream, and they also are focused on driving down the cost of the technology that has to go into autonomous cars," Cooley added. "They are creating a revolution, not being a carmaker in and of themselves."

SEE: Roadshow by CNET's full coverage of the Detroit Auto Show (NAIAS)

Google's approach, said Cooley, shows that the key to autonomy is "about understanding how the cars relate to your goals each day, and how cars relate to each other."

"Waymo's plans are finally becoming clearer as the company has pulled together a complete package for autonomy," said Michael Ramsey, autonomous vehicle analyst at Gartner Research. "The revenue for the business could be substantial if they license both the software controlling driverless cars and the hardware sensor suite that makes it function."

"Waymo is years ahead of the competition," Ramsey added.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. CNET's Shift Awards consider five categories in driving. 2017 winners included the Chevrolet Bolt EV, Chrysler Pacifica Uconnect theater, Audi traffic light information system, and John Krafcik.
  2. Waymo CEO John Krafcik won Roadshow by CNET's Shift "disruption" award at 2017 NAIAS. Waymo is the Google self-driving project spinoff that produced the world's first driverless minivan in collaboration with Chrysler.
  3. Waymo has developed the AI platform and in-house LiDAR that makes its autonomous tech one of the best systems today, and it is poised to drive down the cost of the technology by 90%.

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About Hope Reese

Hope Reese is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers the intersection of technology and society, examining the people and ideas that transform how we live today.

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