Google has refocused its autonomous driving efforts away from developing its vehicle without pedals and steering wheel, according to The Information. The search giant is said to be partnering with car-making companies to work on conventional cars with a view of releasing an autonomous ride-sharing service by the end of 2017.
Google scaling back self-driving ambitions
According to the report, the new prototype car is being manufactured by Fiat Chrysler for Google and is based on the Pacifica minivan. The vehicleswill reportedly be used for the commercial service if the tests are successful. In May, the two companies declared a partnership to develop self-driving minivans.
Alphabet CEO Larry Page and CFO Ruth Porat are said to be behind the decision to pivot the company’s autonomous driving efforts. They reportedly believe that the existing plan of self-producing a new vehicle without a steering wheel is impractical. This is a controversial move inside Chauffeur (the autonomous driving division of Google X), with Google co-founder Sergey Brin in favor of the idea of developing a car from end to end.
Chauffeur will soon be moved out of the Google X “moonshot” division and focus on incorporating its sensors into traditional cars.
More details awaited
The search giant is reportedly planning to hold an event on Tuesday. Not much is known about the agenda, but an email sent to reporters indicates that there will be time for photographs with a prototype, notes USA Today. The existing fleet of the Google Car project reportedly consists of several Lexus SUVs and a few two-person pod-cars.
Reporters have, in the past, examined both cars in the course of many thousand miles of on-road testing in four cities. However, the search giant has not revealed the Chrysler Pacifica minivan. The minivan is being packed with Google LIDAR, camera technology and radar that will give the simple minivan the ability to drive itself, reports USA Today.
Experts believe that both car and tech companies are eager to provide transportation for fully autonomous cars that can keep cars in almost constant use instead of providing transportation for individuals. Besides small startups like Drive and tech companies like NVIDIA, automakers ranging from Volvo to Audi have made their intentions to automate their wares clear. Even Ford has made public its plans to make a car without the need of a driver by 2021.
Last week, Michigan passed the nation’s first law that allows fully autonomous cars to be tested without drivers.