Does it seem to you that Alphabet, Google’s parent company, may list another business entity in the near future? Maybe something to do with autonomous driving? Some of the signs are there for the Google Self-Driving Car Project, which is currently working as part of Google’s experimental lab, Google X. Recent hires for the Project point to a growing possibility of an independent business unit, according to TechCrunch.
Tim Papandreou, formerly head of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Office of Innovation, recently left the city agency to “work as the new head of partnerships ” for the Google Self-Driving Car Project, according to the San Francisco Examiner. In his role for the city, Papandreou was the main point of contact with tech companies including Google focused on transit innovation including driverless cars.
Just hired as the Self-Driving Car Project’s first general attorney, Kevin Vosen was formerly Climate Corporation’s chief legal officer. In his former role, Vosen was responsible for compliance and government relations. As guidelines, requirements, policy, regulations, and laws around implementations of autonomous vehicles are discussed, pondered, and determined on state and federal levels, Vosen’s experience and expertise could come in very handy working for a major player in the field.
Google’s position in the development of self-driving vehicles so far is unique, following a different model than companies like Volvo and Tesla. Volvo is developing its autonomous feature set by partnering with tech vendors, such as Nvidia, with its GPU-based deep-learning self-driving system, and is preparing to test the system with volunteers in its cars in various countries.
Tesla, meanwhile, develops its own technology and uses autonomous systems from other tech developers such as Mobileye. Tesla is conducting long-term testing with customers who purchase its sensor-equipped cars — some 80,000 cars and more than 1 billion miles of autonomous driving data to date.
But Google isn’t selling cars or technology, yet. Currently, the Self-Driving Car Project test fleet includes altered Lexus RX450h SUVs and a batch of smaller, purpose-made cars. Sometime later this year Google is going to equip 100 FCA Pacificas as self-driving testbeds, but the company has been extremely clear that it owns and controls the data — which it keeps to itself.
As the months go on the Google Self-Driving Car Project continues to rack up testing miles to the tune of 15-17k miles a week. As the project brings on leadership personnel with significant experience in government relations, compliance, and public transit innovation, it’s not too much a leap to see some business models emerging, perhaps for fleets of small, driverless ride-share vehicles as well as systems and data that could be utilized by other vehicle manufacturers.