How a former soldier went from self-taught truck driver to helping Alphabet’s Waymo usher in the era of self-driving semis (GOOGL)

Jon Rainwater Waymo

Jon Rainwater instructs safety drivers for Waymo Via, the self-driving company’s freight and deliveries unit.
He enjoyed a lively career before joining Waymo in 2019 — early on as an Army intelligence analyst, and later transporting hazardous waste and driving trucks for many years.
His exposure to the dangerous side of trucking convinced him that there had to a better way, so he was ready to become a Waymonaut when the job became available.
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Editor’s note: For an ongoing series, Business Insider has been talking with Waymo employees from different parts of the company to learn more about their work. What we discovered were some of the coolest jobs at Alphabet, Waymo’s parent company. This is the latest profile in the series. To read the others, click here. For a brief history of Waymo, click here.

The most remarkable thing about Waymo, Alphabet’s autonomous transportation spinoff once known as the Google Car project, isn’t that it has developed vehicles that can drive themselves. Rather, it’s the vast range of people, from all walks of life, who are tackling the challenge.

Take Jon Rainwater, for example. In the late 1970s, as he put it in an interview with Business Insider, the former Army intelligence analyst was “watching the Russians.”

After Rainwater left the service, he attended Lewis & Clark College in Oregon, but later gravitated toward staffing armored cars, with the Federal Reserve as a client. That was decades ago, but his life already had the makings of a Thomas Pynchon novel. He was, at the very least, keeping things interesting.

It got even more interesting when he decided to get a Class A truck-driver’s license. Rainwater borrowed a truck, practiced on his own, and passed his tests as a self-taught student. But work didn’t come easy, so he wound up doing hazardous-waste jobs — “lead concentrations, radioactive material, massive cleanups,” he said — eventually getting experience behind the wheel.

Local work in Los Angeles and San Francisco led to more substantial over-the-road work in the ensuing years, but Rainwater also saw firsthand how drivers were overworked, leading him to begin thinking that there might be a better way to move stuff around without endangering the public.

A diversity of experience at Waymo

Rainwater didn’t necessarily expect to end up working with Alphabet.

But Waymo isn’t just about transporting people, like it’s been doing since late 2018 with its Waymo One service in limited markets. According to CEO John Krafcik, the Waymo “driver” — an integrated suite of hardware and software systems — should be able to handle freight and deliveries as well. So Waymo has a trucking unit, and in 2019, Rainwater joined it through a contractor called Transdev.

“Waymo doesn’t want to limit itself,” he said. “It needs diversity of experience and figured this out a long time ago. They needed to have contributions from all sectors. That’s what separates them.”

By the time the opportunity came around, Rainwater was aware of what Waymo was up to.

“When I …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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