Google is getting serious about its self-driving car initiative.
Reuters reports on Wednesday that Google has entered discussions with several top automative manufacturers about self-driving cars, including General Motors, Ford, Volkswagen and Daimler, the German company behind Mercedes-Benz. The company has also partnered with a number of auto suppliers to develop and refine self-driving systems and components, such as Continental AG, Robert Bosch, LG Electronics and Nvidia.
“We’d be remiss not to talk to … the biggest auto manufacturers. They’ve got a lot to offer,” Chris Urmson, director of Google’s self-driving car project, said in an interview before speaking at an industry conference. “For us to jump in and say that we can do this better, that’s arrogant.”
Both Tesla and Google believe that autonomous vehicles will be production-ready within five years, although the former is more cautious about these next-generation vehicles hitting the streets. Tesla CEO Elon Musk believes that a lack of clear federal regulations regarding self-driving cars could delay their introduction until 2022 or 2023. Google, meanwhile, remains optimistic, with Urmson stating that he and his colleagues “don’t see any particular regulatory hurdles.”
Google has been briefing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the primary auto regulatory firm in the United States, about self-driving cars to avoid any surprises. The company will soon deploy a full line of prototype self-driving cars after unveiling its first “real build” last month. While the vehicles will have a “test driver” inside, they will be absent of traditional mechanisms like a steering wheel, accelerator pedal and brakes.
Any partnerships formed between Google and leading auto makers would likely be beneficial for both parties. General Motors, Ford, Volkswagen and Daimler all have decades of experience in manufacturing and selling vehicles, while Google is developing autonomous technologies that will power the next generation of vehicles. At least one of the Big Three is receptive of the idea, as General Motors claimed yesterday that it is “open to having a discussion” with Google about self-driving cars.