Technology

Carmakers eye Google's driverless tech

A Google employee on a bicycle acting as a real-life obstacle for a Google self-driving car to react to, during a media preview of the Internet giant's prototype autonomous vehicles in Mountain View, California, in September. Google has logged more t
A Google employee on a bicycle acting as a real-life obstacle for a Google self-driving car to react to, during a media preview of the Internet giant's prototype autonomous vehicles in Mountain View, California, in September. Google has logged more than 2 million km of autonomous driving.PHOTO: REUTERS

Ford , GM and Fiat Chrysler seek to add brains to their vehicles using search giant's technology

WASHINGTON • Google's self-driving car technology is attracting top US automakers, as Ford, Fiat Chrysler and General Motors talk with the company while laying the groundwork for a future with autonomous cars.

The Internet search giant and Ford Motor, the second-largest US automaker, have been talking for months, a source said.

The extent of a partnership remains under discussion and the precise framework of any effort is unclear but it could include jointly building and developing cars.

That follows comments in October from Mr Mark Reuss, product development chief for General Motors, that the automaker was "very interested" in exploring ways its manufacturing skills could complement Google's system.

Mr Sergio Marchionne, chief executive officer of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, has also said repeatedly in the past few months that his company wants to work on autonomous driving with technology companies such as Apple and Google.

Mr Thilo Koslowski, a vice-president in the automotive practice at Gartner, said: "We are entering the era of the technology and software-defined vehicle. You're just seeing the auto industry recognise the importance of that."

A partnership between a major automaker and Google could speed the introduction of self-driving vehicles by giving the car company access to Google's wealth of software development while Google would benefit from the industrial and automotive know-how of a firm such as Ford.

Automakers are getting close to Google as they consider using the search giant's technology to add brains to their vehicles, instead of building their own rival systems.

It's a mutually beneficial relationship, Mr Koslowski said.

Google says it is in talks with many automakers.

Fully autonomous cars could eventually prevent thousands of crashes, deaths and injuries, reduce oil use through better traffic management and extend personal mobility to people unable to drive.

Google has logged more than 2 million km of autonomous driving. It has developed a prototype pod-like self-driving car that could be driven without a steering wheel and pedals.

Ford shares were up 3.4 per cent, or 47 US cents a share, to US$14.20 on news of the potential partnership.

Google rose 0.3 per cent, or US$2.23, to US$750 a share.

Ford declined to confirm or deny holding talks with Google.

"We're not going to comment on rumour or speculation about specific conversations," Google also said in a statement.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 24, 2015, with the headline 'Carmakers eye Google's driverless tech '. Print Edition | Subscribe