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Google’s Self-Driving Car Project has a new legal lead

TechCrunch TechCrunch 8/07/2016 Mark Lelinwalla

Google’s Self-Driving Car Project is one step closer to becoming its own independent business. Recode has confirmed that the autonomous-driving company under the Alphabet umbrella has hired The Climate Corporation’s chief legal officer, Kevin Vosen, as its first general attorney. He’s slated to begin later this month.

Currently, Google’s self-driving unit is under the company’s experimental lab, X, but Vosen’s hire seemingly marks another gradual step in becoming its own entity. And the time is interesting, considering it comes amidst Tesla being federally investigated for a fatal May 7 crash involving a Model S in Autopilot mode.

The legal red tape that Google — or any company developing autonomous driving technology — will encounter with regulators will make having a veteran lawyer like Vosen handy, given his experience. Vosen handled The Climate Corporation’s Compliance and Government Relations activities. Also, Climate’s CEO and co-founder, David Friedberg, formerly worked for Google under its Corporate Development and Product Management, so there’s a connection there. Friedberg is also the Chairman of Metromile, which offers pay-per-mile auto insurance, so perhaps there’s something greater in the works here as well.

The news of Google’s autonomous unit lawyering up comes shortly after Google X hired Tim Papandreou, the former head of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Office of Innovation, so its self-driving development team is getting more and more robust.

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