Skip to main content

Google and Ford may partner on self-driving cars at CES 2016

Google Self-Driving Car
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Ford might be looking to skip the long, audacious task of building a self-driving system from the ground up, instead joining forces with Google, according to a report from Yahoo Autos claims.

Citing sources familiar with the plans, Yahoo reported that the two companies will announce a joint venture at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. If announced, it will be the first commercial self-driving partnership for Alphabet, the parent company in charge of the project.

Ford started testing its own system last month, but might be scrapping that for Google’s own self-driving platform, at least initially. Google has clocked in 1.3 million miles with its self-driving vehicles, testing the vehicles in California and Texas for the past two years, and has improved the system to recognize all sorts of things on the road.

Alan Hall, communication manager for Ford, confirmed to Digital Trends that the carmaker is in talks with a wide range of businesses, but declined to specifically cite Google.

“We have been and will continue working with many companies and discussing a variety of subjects related to our Ford Smart Mobility plan. We keep these discussions private for obvious competitive reasons, and we do not comment on speculation,” Hall said.

Not much is known about future collaborations, but Alphabet will apparently cover all liability concerns. That means that if someone is injured in an accident involving Ford’s self-driving vehicle, it would fall on Alphabet to compensate or defend in court.

The joint venture is not exclusive, according to the report, and Alphabet is in talks with other automakers. Earlier in the year, Google co-founder Sergey Brin said it was looking for partners to use its self-driving system. Project director Chris Urmson gave similar comments last year, saying that the company doesn’t want to become a car maker.

Software licensing is apparently the route Google wants to take in the self-driving industry, rather than building cars. However, there are also rumors that Google will launch a fleet of self-driving taxis to compete in the private car-for-hire market — it is unclear if that fleet will be built by Google.

Google’s mobile rival Apple is also planning to get into the automotive business, according to multiple reports. Instead of licensing the software — which it does with CarPlay — Apple will supposedly build the car and the self-driving system.

Alphabet recently created a new division for the self-driving car. The division is valued at $8 billion, according to research firm Pacific Crest.

David Curry
Former Digital Trends Contributor
David has been writing about technology for several years, following the latest trends and covering the largest events. He is…
Officers confused as they pull over an empty self-driving car

In what appears to be the first incident of its kind, police officers recently pulled over a self-driving car with no one inside it.

The incident, which took place on a street in San Francisco earlier this month, was caught on video by a passing pedestrian. It shows several traffic cops pondering about how to handle the incident after stopping the vehicle for failing to have its front lights on while driving at night.

Read more
How a big blue van from 1986 paved the way for self-driving cars
Lineup of all 5 Navlab autonomous vehicles.

In 1986, a blue Chevy van often cruised around the streets of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania near Carnegie Mellon University. To the casual observer, nothing about it appeared out of the ordinary. Most people would pass by it without noticing the camcorder peeking out from its roof, or the fact that there were no hands on the steering wheel.

But if any passerby had stopped to inspect the van and peer into its interior, they would have realized it was no ordinary car. This was the world's first self-driving automobile: A pioneering work of computer science and engineering somehow built in a world where fax machines were still the predominant way to send documents, and most phones still had cords. But despite being stuck in an era where technology hadn't caught up to humanity's imagination quite yet, the van -- and the researchers crammed into it -- helped to lay the groundwork for all the Teslas, Waymos, and self-driving Uber prototypes cruising around our streets in 2022.

Read more
WhatsApp backups may soon count against Google Drive storage
Person texting on a smartphone using WhatsApp.

New evidence found in a beta build of WhatsApp for Android suggests that Google may no longer be offering unlimited storage for WhatsApp backups.

This probably shouldn’t come as a big surprise, as Google has gradually been clamping down on its unlimited storage offerings. For years, Google offered storage allotments for Google Drive customers that ranged from generous to downright unlimited, but the search giant has slowly been walking that back lately.

Read more