Google has been very serious about its self-driving car project that it eventually decided to spin it off into an entirely new entity under the name Waymo. The company has also spent a serious amount of money in funding the project, and much of the funding went to the project's engineers. Presumably, Google wants to make its engineers as happy as they can be so as to avoid losing them to other companies. Nevertheless, recent reports suggest that this may have been quite a wrong move for the company.
According to The Verge via Bloomberg, early staffers had an unconventional salary system that allowed the people's pay and bonuses to be multiplied based on the performance of the project. It was said that payments accumulated as the staff reach milestones. Needless to say, this has been a risky move for Google considering that Waymo is years away from actually earning its profit. One of the staff was reportedly able to have a multiplier of 16 that was applied to his/her equity and bonus.
Obviously, this method of compensation did work, but only for a while. Eventually, these people got so financially secured that they no longer need to stay with Google. In addition to this, there were also two staffers that called their pay "F-you money". Plus, there were actually people who were able to accumulate so much cash and leave the company for other firms. This includes one who co-founded a startup called Otto which was later bought by Uber.
It's undeniable how competitive the autonomous car space industry is right now, especially for the fact that this is a project that both tech and auto companies can appropriately venture on. With that, it's understandable for Google to spend so much for it and it's also worth noting how much ahead the company is compared to others. However, at this point in time, it's still unclear whether or not Google's head-start will turn into money in the future.