San Francisco: Google’s self-driving car technology is attracting top US automakers, as Ford, Fiat Chrysler and General Motors talk with the company while laying the groundwork for a future with autonomous cars. Ford Motor and Google are discussing working together, including in a joint venture to build cars using Google’s technology, said a person familiar with the talks who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private.
That follows comments in October from Mark Reuss, product development chief for General Motors, that the automaker was “very interested” in exploring ways its manufacturing skills could complement Google’s system. Sergio Marchionne, chief executive officer of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, has said repeatedly the past few months that his company wants to work on autonomous driving with technology companies such as Apple and Google.
“We are entering the era of the technology and software- defined vehicle,” said Thilo Koslowski, a vice president in the automotive practice at Gartner. “You’re just seeing the auto industry recognise the importance of that.”
Automakers are getting close to Google as they consider using the search giant’s technology to add brains to their vehicles, instead of building their own rival systems. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, Koslowski said.
“Some Silicon Valley companies would like to do everything themselves, but it’s really the car companies that understand the automobile,” he said. “On the same side, a lot of technology companies have expertise on their side, which is interesting to the automotive companies.”
Yahoo Autos reported Monday that Ford would announce a joint venture with Google on self-driving technology in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. “We have been and will continue working with many companies and discussing a variety of subjects related to our Ford Smart Mobility plan,” Alan Hall, a spokesman for the automaker said Tuesday in a statement. “We keep these discussions private for obvious competitive reasons, and we do not comment on speculation.” An agreement with Ford wouldn’t preclude Google from similar deals with other automakers.
“In order to reach our longterm goal of transforming mobility for millions of people we’re talking to many different companies about how to bring selfdriving vehicles into the world safely, but we’re not going to comment on rumor or speculation about specific conversations,” Johnny Luu, a Google spokesman, said in an e-mail.
GM CEO Mary Barra and Volkswagen brand chief Herbert Diess are scheduled to give keynote speeches at CES. In recent years, carmakers have added more electronics to vehicles and have started talking as much about their computer- aided systems as about engine technology. Selfdriving cars add other layers of complication that will require major investment by the auto companies.
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