Easily standing above 6 feet, the software engineer’s towering stature belied a surprisingly soft voice that occasionally revealed a geeky awkwardness as he spoke to a crowd of hundreds at the recent Governor’s Conference on Small Business in Reno.
Despite his lack of a salesman’s silver tongue — or perhaps because of it — Levandowski had his audience’s undivided attention. Maybe the crowd liked soft-spoken guys. Perhaps it involved the reverence that came with playing a key role inside one of the biggest technology companies in history.
A product manager at Google, Levandowski’s fingerprints can be found all over the wheel of the company’s robotic car initiative. It’s a program of special interest to Nevada.
Last year, the state became the first in the nation to regulate self-driving automobiles.
The distinction is a point of pride for Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, who became the first governor to ride Google’s self-driving car at the time. Sandoval hopes that the state’s foresight will pay off for Nevadans in the form of increased business opportunities once the technology gets off the starting block and into the mainstream.
“I liken it to a popcorn machine and that machine is going to fill up as we diversify this region,” Sandoval said. “It’s not a news flash that we’ve gone through some tough economic times in Nevada. Economic development is the cornerstone for the state’s efforts to improve the economy … and create more jobs.”
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