When Salesky arrived at the National Robotics Engineering Center, a unit within Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute, he found his true love. He was senior software engineer on the winning team in the 2007 autonomous vehicle challenge funded by DARPA. Chris Urmson, who would later head up Google’s self-driving project and recently co-founded self-driving car startup Aurora, was director of technology of that team.
Salesky made the leap over to the Google self-driving car project, where he eventually became director of hardware development. During his time at Google, he headed up discussions with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles that led to a partnership to produce self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans.
In short, Salesky held a golden ticket to a well-funded startup or a high-profile position at a major automaker or tech company. He chose option number three.