National Safety Council’s Hersman Goes Autonomous

Deborah Hersman, former CEO and president of the National Safety Council, was recently appointed as the first chief safety officer at Waymo. (Photo taken from nsc.org)

Deborah Hersman, former CEO and president of the National Safety Council (NSC), was appointed as chief safety officer at Waymo, prior to the launch of Waymo’s first autonomous ride-share service in Phoenix.

Hersman will leave the National Safety Council on Jan. 11. Previously, she served as the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) chairman during 2004-2014. While she headed the investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Transportation, she obtained her CDL with a school bus endorsement.

While serving as president of the NSC, Hersman helped launch several initiatives that focused on eliminating preventable deaths, including the Stop Everyday Killers campaign, Road to Zero Coalition and MyCarDoesWhat.org. The council also published the first State of Safety report, which examined fatigue in the workplace.

NSC added in a statement that Hersman’s many accomplishments included focusing her actions on distracted drivers, child passenger safety, and helping victims and families.

Prior to serving as chairperson of the NTSB, she served as senior advisor to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation from 1999 to 2004, and she helped pass several acts regarding transportation safety.

Hersman is a “strong champion for safety and she is perfectly positioned to lead Waymo through the next phase of their self-driving vehicle program,” NSC Board Chairman Mark Vergnano said in a statement.

Waymo, which began as the Google self-driving car project in 2009, describes itself as an independent self-driving technology company that seeks safety and convenience, without requiring someone to be in the driver’s seat.

According to various media outlets, Waymo is planning to launch its first self-driving ride share system soon. The Waymo website already shares information on the “Early Rider Program,” which is the first public trial of self-driving cars for residents in Phoenix.

Hersman will be joining Waymo as its first chief safety officer, in addition to the recently appointed Amee Chande, who was named the company’s first chief commercial officer. Both of these positions were created to further emphasize the commitment Waymo has towards public safety, and steps towards commercialization, notes Waymo’s announcement.

Waymo said that Hersman will be responsible for field and systems safety across the testing and development program. In particular, she will help oversee the design and enhancement of the company’s product safety program.

“Waymo is well-known for its industry-leading technology and I’m excited to join the team, to ensure we continue to build upon its world-class programs, continuously innovating and advancing the field of safety,” said Hersman. “I’ve dedicated my career to promoting safety in our communities, and I’m joining Waymo because of the potential to make an even greater impact on reducing road injuries and fatalities.”

Meanwhile, Chief Operating Officer Nicholas Smith will serve as interim president and CEO for NSC.