Google's self-driving unit lost execs by overpaying them

A talent exodus from startups that don't pay enough? Sure, we've all heard of that. A talent exodus from startups that pay too much? Only in Silicon Valley. Or at Google, to be precise.

Google's autonomous-driving project, which launched in 2010 and was rebranded as Waymo late last year, has been losing some executives because the division's compensation system paid some executives enough money to be financially independent, Bloomberg News reports, citing people familiar with the process. With compensation formerly based on the project's future financial value, some early members of the division received payouts in the seven-figure range. A spokesman from Google parent Alphabet declined to comment to Bloomberg.

Notably, Google's fourth-quarter 2015 operating expenses jumped 14 percent from a year earlier to $6.6 billion largely from research and development costs for non-core business units, though the company didn't attribute the spending jump directly to payouts for the autonomous-driving project. Still, competition for talent within the autonomous-driving sector in Silicon Valley has been fierce, as electric-vehicle maker Tesla and ride-hailing service leader Uber Technologies continue to boost their investments in self-driving technology. Former Google autonomous-driving project leader Chris Urmson left the division in last August to start up his own firm, while other executives departed to form the autonomous-trucking firm Otto, which has been acquired by Uber.

The project, which was previously part of the Google X and Alphabet X research and development divisions, was rebranded as Waymo last year, and is overseen by John Krafcik, whose previous experience includes a stint with Ford Motor Co. as well as serving as CEO of Hyundai Motor America. Google has indicated that it has since standardized its compensation system for Waymo employees.

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