Details about a Google-Ford partnership on self-driving cars might be announced during the CES 2016 show in Las Vegas early next month. For now, Google will only confirm that it is in talks with "many different companies."
News about the rumored partnership was published earlier this week by Automotive News and Yahoo Autos. Citing a source with "knowledge of the project," Automotive News said the companies had been in negotiations for some time on a deal in which Ford would build autonomous cars for Google.
Both Google and Ford, along with a large number of competing tech and companies, have been working on projects to develop and test self-driving vehicles. Ford announced last week that it plans to begin testing its autonomous Fusion Hybrid on public roads next year, while Google's autonomous vehicles have already driven more than 1.3 million miles.
Google: No Car-Making Ambitions
As Monday's article in Yahoo Autos reported, by partnering with Ford, Google "avoids spending billions of dollars and several years that building its own automotive manufacturing expertise would require." Ford, meanwhile, "gets a massive boost in self-driving software development," the article noted.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin said earlier this year that his company had no plans to manufacture and sell autonomous cars on its own. Rather, he said Google would team up with automakers that would use the company's software and technology to build such vehicles.
Brin and other advocates of self-driving cars say the technology would help eliminate thousands of deaths caused by human driver error each year. While motor vehicle deaths have steadily declined in recent decades, car accidents still kill some 1.2 million people globally each year, and the vast majority are blamed on human error.
Record Number of Patents for Ford
"In order to reach our long term goal of transforming mobility for millions of people we’re talking to many different companies about how to bring self-driving vehicles into the world safely, but we’re not going to comment on rumor or speculation about specific conversations," a Google spokesperson told us today in an e-mail.
Yesterday, Ford announced that it had made a record number of patent applications in 2015, "with many related to autonomous and connected vehicles, wearable devices, eBikes, navigation, ride-sharing platforms and other technologies." The company operates a research lab in Palo Alto focused on its Ford Smart Mobility initiative, which is aimed at developing smart, connected and self-driving cars.
Google's current fleet of self-driving test cars includes 23 Lexus RX450h SUVs and 30 prototype vehicles. Earlier this month, reports emerged that Google Alphabet is planning to launch a business next year that would provide passenger rides in autonomous vehicles.
Under California's recently released draft regulations for self-driving cars, such vehicles won't be allowed for general use on public roads -- at least not initially. However, the proposal could allow Google to operate autonomous cars for hire on college campuses and private properties such as corporate campuses.
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