Last year, Google’s Chris Urmson indicated that the Silicon Valley giant was seeking auto industry partners “to bring its vision of a self-driving car to market within the next five years”. And now, we read that Google has begun discussions with most of the top auto manufacturers (including GM, Ford, Toyota, Daimler and Volkswagen) for such an “alliance”. In fact, just a few days ago, GM’s Chief Technology Officer was quoted as saying “we’d certainly be open to having a discussion with them”. Such a “partnership” would have numerous benefits for both Google and the auto OEM but control over the technology is just one of the big issues that will need to be ironed out. Another is the vision of autonomy. While Google’s objective is to deliver a fully driverless (Level 4 autonomy) vehicle to consumers, many of the auto manufacturers (for obvious and self-serving reasons) would prefer to keep the driver in the loop (Level 3 autonomy). If a deal is struck, it could certainly help in meeting the 2020 driverless vehicle commercialization objective that many players have been referring to.
Speaking at the Detroit auto show, Chris Urmson stated that he does not believe that NHTSA will stand in Google’s way and that the company’s outlook for fielding a fully driverless car on public roads is probably 5 years – but that’s the forecast for sunny California. When can we expect to see these vehicles in Canada and other nordic climates?