Google’s Self-Driving Unit Hires New Public Policy Lead

Tekedra Mawakana joins Waymo, a sibling unit of Google, roughly eight months after the company hired its first general counsel.

Waymo's Tekedra Mawakana. (Photo: Richard Kerris)

SAN FRANCISCO — Alphabet Inc. self-driving car division Waymo has hired a former eBay Inc. executive as the vice president of public policy and government affairs, its lobbying arm.

Tekedra Mawakana joins Waymo, a sibling unit of Google, roughly eight months after the company hired its first general counsel.

She joins the company as policymakers  across the United States are weighing regulation of automonomous vehicles and Waymo readies for a fight against self-driving technology competitor Uber Technologies Inc. regarding allegedly stolen trade secrets. At least 20 states introduced legislation on self-driving vehicles in 2016, and 11 states, including California, and Washington, D.C. have passed laws regulating them, according to the National Council on State Legislatures.

Also, President Donald Trump's administration is re-evaluating rules put in place by the Obama administration in last September. In February, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said she was looking to strike the right balance between what information automakers have to share with the U.S. government and how to ensure safety on the road. She also said she was “very concerned” about the impact of autonomous vehicles on employment

Mawakana could not be immediately reached for comment, but she issued a statement via LinkedIn that "While Waymo is perhaps best known for their innovative self-driving technology, I'm most drawn to their strong commitment to safety, and their thoughtful approach to shaping policies in this fast-evolving space. I look forward to building on this solid foundation."

Chief Executive Officer John Krafcik said in a statement, “Tekedra is a smart and creative leader who brings deep knowledge of the public policy issues facing complex technology and innovative business models. As we take fully self-driving cars to the roads, Tekedra will work with policymakers at all levels to realize the enormous safety, mobility and economic benefits of this technology.”

Mawakana joins Waymo after 14 months with eBay, where she served as vice president of global government relations and public policy. At the San Jose-based online auction site, Mawakana was in charge of global strategies behind public policy, legislative affairs, antitrust policy and regulatory matters. She led a global team that worked with regulators and lawmakers around the world to discuss e-commerce, small business empowerment, privacy, intellectual property and immigration.

Before working at eBay, Mawakana was the global head of public policy, vice president and deputy general counsel at Yahoo Inc. From 2001 to 2013, Mawakana served in various roles at AOL Inc. She began as a senior counsel on network transactions and was later promoted to assistant general counsel of public policy and technology networks. By the time she left the company, she was senior vice president and deputy general counsel of public policy.

Mawakana started her legal career as an associate at Steptoe & Johnson LLP after earning her legal degree from Columbia Law School. 

Mawakana joins Waymo during a turbulent time. In February, Waymo sued Uber in San Francisco federal court, accusing the ride-hailing giant of using stolen technology to power its self-driving cars. Waymo’s parent, Alphabet Inc., has hired Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan as outside counsel. Morrison & Foerster is defending Uber.

At a motion hearing in mid-March, U.S. District Judge William Alsup, who is presiding over the complaint, expressed doubt about Alphabet’s claims. 

In July, Waymo hired Kevin Vosen as its first general counsel.

Originally published on Corporate Counsel. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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David Ruiz

David Ruiz is the in-house counsel reporter for the San Francisco-based legal affairs paper The Recorder. Ruiz has written for The Sacramento Bee,...

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