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Google Plans To Partner With Automakers For Its Self-Driving Car Project | DrivingSales News

Google Plans To Partner With Automakers For Its Self-Driving Car Project

January 15, 2016 0 Comments


Google has made a great deal of progress with its self-driving car development, but the tech giant says it wants to form new partnerships this year with traditional automakers to accelerate its growth.

Speaking at the Automotive News World Congress, John Krafcik, the head of Google’s autonomous car project and a former Hyundai CEO, spoke to a room full of car executives.

“We are going to need a lot of help, and in the next stages of our project, we’re going to be partnering more and more for sure,” Krafcik said.

“Automakers have the talent and the track record of producing cars at scale,” Krafcik later continued. “As our technology progresses, we hope to work with many of you guys…for all sorts of partnerships we’re going to have to form in order to deliver this technology to users around the world.”

This statement follows speculation Google is planning to join forces with Ford. Yahoo! Autos suggested that the two companies would launch a joint venture at CES, but this didn’t happen. Now, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the two are still in discussions about a partnership. Krafcik said that almost all major automakers have approached Google about its self-driving project, while Ford president and CEO Mark Fields said that the automaker is in talks with a number of companies but is keeping them all private.

The Wall Street Journal has suggested that if a deal between Google and Ford comes to fruition, it will allow Ford to develop the basic software and components while Google handles the autonomous-driving systems.

Krafcik explained Google’s self-driving cars have driven approximately 1.3 million miles to date, at a rate of about 10,000 to 15,000 miles per week. The company is currently testing the vehicles in California and Texas.

Google’s autonomous fleet appears to be getting more advanced and safer over time. In a report submitted to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, the company detailed the number of times its cars have been in dangerous situations and have required manual overrides. Looking at the data as a whole, from Sept. 24, 2014 to Nov. 30, 2015, these incidents appear to be decreasing. Google said that there were 13 occasions in total where one of its vehicles would have made contact with another object if a test driver hadn’t intervened. Eight of these incidents occurred in the last three months of 2014, during 53,000 miles of testing, while only five took place in 2015, over 370,000 miles.

Chris Urmson, the director of Google’s self-driving car project, says that he expects these figures to continually decline over time. Google’s engineers use a simulator to replay each incident and predict how the car would have behaved on its own. The team can also see how other drivers and pedestrians would have reacted to the situation, and subsequently alter the scenario in various ways to see what would have changed under different speeds and angles. Updated software is then testing in the simulator before being introduced on the road and eventually being deployed in Google’s entire fleet of self-driving vehicles.

The 13 incidents are what Google calls “driver-initiated disengagements,” where the human driver decided that it was necessary to take over control of the vehicle. The company actually recorded 69 in total, but the majority of these wouldn’t have resulted in a crash. Instead, the cars simply showed behavior that could have caused problems in other scenarios, such as incorrectly analyzing traffic lights, not giving the right of way to pedestrians, and misinterpreting local traffic laws. Additionally, Google’s test drivers recorded 272 “immediate manual control” disengagements, which means that the car called upon the driver for assistance. The company explains that these were triggered by minor technical faults, such as anomalous sensor readings.

Clearly, Google’s self-driving cars have a long way to go before they can be used by the general public. However, the continual decline of these incidents across longer stretches of testing illustrates very positive progress. Perhaps with the assistance of some major car manufacturers, Google’s autonomous car development will ramp up in the near future to reach the point where its vehicles no longer require human drivers to periodically take over the wheel.

About the Author:

The DrivingSales News team is dedicated to breaking the relevant and the tough stories affecting car dealers. Have questions for DrivingSales News? Reach the team at news@drivingsales.com.

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