The development of self-driving cars has become one of the hottest areas in both the tech and automotive sectors today. Nobody wants to be left behind in a market of this size, so there is a growing urgency being placed on autonomous driving programs among almost all of the major players in both industries.
Related to this, Yahoo Autos published a report on Monday of this week claiming that Google and Ford are within weeks of officially announcing a partnership to develop self-driving cars. According to three knowledgeable sources, the partnership between Ford and Google will be announced at the Consumer Electronics Show this coming January.
The decision to become partners with Google means Ford gets a giant step forward in self-driving software development; and keep in mind the iconic automaker has been working on its own autonomous driving systems for several years, it only revealed plans this month to begin testing on public streets in California. Google has 53 test vehicles on the road in California and Texas, with 1.3 million miles logged in autonomous driving. A partnership with Ford means Google does not have to pony up billions of dollars or spend several years that developing its own automotive manufacturing expertise.
A few months ago, Google co-founder Sergey Brin commented that the tech titan was looking for manufacturing partners for it’s self-driving system,
More on Ford, Google self-driving cars partnership
Although the Yahoo sources could not provide further details about the partnership, it will be a legally separate joint venture, at least partially to protect Ford from liability worries. The issue of legal responsibility remains unresolved at this point, but earlier this year Volvo stepped up to say it would accept responsibility for crashes involving autonomous driving in its vehicles, a pledge that both Google and Mercedes-Benz also took.
The deal will apparently be non-exclusive, as Google has been talking to several other car manufacturers about using its self-driving systems. That said, most major automakers and even auto parts suppliers are developing their own self-driving systems. Some have even promised advanced, self-driving cars by 2020
Google would not comment on a possible partnership with Ford.
Ford spokesperson Alan Hall noted that the company works with many other businesses on its Ford Smart Mobility plan, saying: “We keep these discussions private for obvious competitive reasons, and we do not comment on speculation.”
Bloomberg reported a few days ago that Google’s parent Alphabet would spin off the self-driving car business into its own unit, with potential revenue from car-sharing services in major cities to compete with Uber.
Of interest, to date Google has tested its autonomous systems with specially adapted Lexuses and custom-built, low-speed electric cars sold by Roush Industries (a Ford supplier).