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Another thing GitHub does well is automate tedious — and important — tasks. There’s a very strong culture of building mini-apps and Hubot scripts if it helps with automation.

There’s two reasons for why we push hard on this. The first is most obvious: you’re letting a scripted process save you time so you can focus on doing real work. The second is more subtle: automation reduces institutional knowledge. Institutional knowledge leads to a minority group inside of the company retaining answers. That forces new employees to bother those few in order to make impactful changes. It becomes a very verbal, synchronous process, which we try to avoid.

Zach Holman — Scaling GitHub’s Employees.

The project is being guided by the artificial-intelligence researcher Sebastian Thrun, who as a Stanford professor in 2005 led a team of students and engineers that designed the first winning entry in an autonomous vehicle contest organized by the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Since then, Dr. Thrun has focused more of his activities at Google, giving up tenure at Stanford and hiring a growing array of experts to help with the development project.

In frequent public statements, he has said robotic vehicles would increase energy efficiency while reducing road injuries and deaths. And he has called for sophisticated systems for car sharing that, he says, could cut the number of cars in the United States in half.

“What if I could take out my phone and say, ‘Zipcar, come here,’ ” he asked an industry conference last year, “and a moment later the Zipcar came around the corner?”

Google Lobbies Nevada To Allow Self-Driving Cars. The robots are coming.