According to people familiar with the matter, Google teams up with Ford to build a fleet of autonomous cars in a bid to kickstart the world’s first automated ride sharing business.
The sources also disclosed that the partnership would be made public by the American automaker at the next edition of CES, in January.
Ford would benefit from the deal since Google has a wide expertise in self-driving technology. But Ford is not new in the business. It has its own fleet of driverless cars, which the automaker plans to start testing on California’s streets.
Google is already testing a fleet of more than 50 autonomous cars on the roads of California and Texas with the final goal of 1.3 miles. Google’s recent move will help the internet search giant save billions of dollars and years of research to develop its own division of car manufacturing.
The company said earlier this year that it was interested in partnerships with carmakers that could integrate its self-driving systems in their cars.
Sources also said that Ford would be protected from liability concerns as Google would separate the partnership on paper from the Michigan-based automaker. Taking responsibility for accidents generated by driverless cars on public streets sparked hot debates in recent years.
Volvo said that it would not dodge liability when it comes to car crashes in the driverless mode. Mercedes-Benz and Google Inc. soon followed suit.
Although we do not have the full specifics of the deal, we understood that it would not be exclusive. Google can negotiate and ink other similar partnerships with automakers both in the U.S. and abroad.
But most carmakers are already designing their own driverless systems over concerns that partnering with tech giants such as Google or Apple could expose their manufacturing know-how to competitors.
Volvo and Mercedes-Benz among others pledged to bring their own driverless cars to the showrooms by 2020.
Google declined to confirm the partnership. Ford, on the other hand, admitted its division that develops autonomous technology works with many tech companies. But the company would rather keep the partnerships secret for ‘obvious competitive reasons,’ a Ford spokesperson recently said. The automaker also declined to provide comments on ‘speculation.’
This month, Google announced that it would revamp its driverless car business to create a fleet of fully automated vehicles that would rival Uber and other ride-sharing and taxi-app-based companies. So far, Google’s fleet of retrofitted Lexus SUVs logged over 1 million miles of driverless driving.
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