Google has long been the evil overlord of the internet and now it has added to its empire through a new partnership with Ford. The two companies are reportedly embarking on a joint venture to develop and build our autonomous cars of the future.
According to Yahoo, the partnership is set to be officialy announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. It’s potentially a winning situation for both Ford and Google.
Ford will benefit from access to Google’s self-driving software systems. They only just annoucned plans to start testing their own systems on public roads in California. Google is way ahead with 53 vehicles already on the street. They’ve also logged 1.3 million autonomous miles so their software has had plenty of time for debugging.
For Google’s part, they will benefit from Ford’s manufacturing expertise. Without an automotive partner, Google would have to spend a huge amount of cash figuring out manufacturing on their own. Ford’s expertise in this area will help speed developement significantly and get autonomous cars on the road that much faster.
All the details will be released at CES, but it’s believed that Ford will be legally separating this from the rest of its corporate activities. This stems from concerns about liability that they don’t want coming back at the rest of the company should there be any issues.
The liability issue is a tricky one for all manufacturers developing autonomous cars. Some have already stepped up and said they’ll take the blame. Volvo, Google, and Mercedes-Benz have all stated that they will take responsibility for any crashes their vehicles are involved in while in autonomous mode. Ford has made no such statement, so far.
This might be the first automaker Google partners with, but it likely will not be the last. The deal is non-exclusive so both parties are free to work with whoever they choose.
Google has been talking to automakers for awhile about having their self-driving systems in other company’s cars. Most are developing their own systems, but promises of having autonomous cars on the road by 2020 could have some of them turning back to Google.
Ford and Google were linked even ahead of this partnership. John Krafcik, head of Google’s self-driving car project, worked at Ford for 14 years and former Ford CEO Alan Mulally joined Google’s board last year. There are several other former Ford employees on the Google payroll these days to make things even further entwined.
If successful, it’s a partnership that could make our self-driving future a reality sooner rather than later.