Google hires Airbnb’s Shaun Stewart to help bring self-driving cars to market

Google has a new director at its self-driving car unit: Shaun Stewart, former head of Airbnb’s vacation rentals business, and CEO at TripAdvisor prior to that. Stewart’s entire career has essentially been spent in the hospitality industry, which makes him an interesting pick for the role at Google, where his role will be to help with the commercializations of Google’s self-driving tech, according to Reuters.

Stewart’s hiring follows the appointment of four Hyundai Motor America CEO John Krafcik in 2015 as the set-driving car unit’s CEO. Krafcik and Stewart bring a very different kind of talent to the table, with more experience commercializing vehicles and services at scale compared to the likes of outgoing project lead Chris Urmson, who came from an academic research background prior to leading Google’s efforts before his departure earlier this month.

Looking at Stewart’s professional history, the picture painted is of an experienced executive with a focus on the short-term rental-based device industry. That’s a skill set that should complement any commercial self-driving car service put to market by Google, since the most likely business model would be on-demand hailing with trip-based billing for short-term engagements.

With Krafcik bringing his expertise of the consumer car market, and Stewart adding insight from the short-term hospitality rental industry, Google’s starting to put together the kind of executive team you could reasonably see heading up a self-driving car subsidiary that actually operates as a consumer-facing business. And time is getting short in terms of being first to market with that kind of offering. Exciting times, indeed.