Ford, Google to Co-Develop Self-Driving Cars

The partnership will use Google's self-driving car technology and would be legally separate from Ford to shield the automaker from liability concerns.

Ford and Google are creating a joint venture to develop self-driving vehicles together, according to Yahoo Autos. Ford CEO Mark Fields will make the announcement at CES 2016, according to the report, which cites three sources.

According to the report, the joint venture, which will use Google’s technology to build the self-driving cars, “would be legally separate from Ford, in part to shield the automaker from liability concerns.” And the deal is non-exclusive as “Google has been talking to several other automakers for some time about using its self-driving systems.”

Here’s more from Yahoo Autos:

“By pairing with Google, Ford gets a massive boost in self-driving software development; while the automaker has been experimenting with its own systems for years, it only revealed plans this month to begin testing on public streets in California. Google has 53 test vehicles on the road in California and Texas, with 1.3 million miles logged in autonomous driving.

“By pairing with Ford, the search-engine giant avoids spending billions of dollars and several years that building its own automotive manufacturing expertise would require. Earlier this year, Google co-founder Sergey Brin said the company was looking for manufacturing partners that would use the company’s self-driving system, which it believes could someday eliminate the roughly 33,000 annual deaths on U.S. roads.”

Neither side has confirmed this report, but the two companies already have ties. In September, Google hired former Ford and Hyundai executive John Krafcik as CEO of Google’s Self-Driving Car Project. There are other ex-Ford employees in that division of Google as well. And former Ford chief executive Alan Mulally joined Google’s board in 2014.

Google announced earlier in December 2015 plans to make its self-driving car division a standalone “Alphabet” company in 2016. Google is eyeing a ride-sharing service that will challenge Uber, Lyft and traditional taxi companies. San Francisco and Austin, Texas are “logical places for launching a service” as those are two locations where Google’s self-driving cars have logged many of their 1-million-plus miles.

Here’s an interesting tidbit to keep in mind Ford will soon begin testing self-driving cars in California, but the state’s DMV wants to make it illegal to operate a self-driving car without a specially-licensed driver on board and ready to take control. What impact, if any, could this have on the Ford-Google venture? Maybe we’ll find out at CES.

About the Author

Steve Crowe · Steve Crowe is managing editor of Robotics Trends. Steve has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter.
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