I was excited to read this post on Yahoo Autos that said Ford and Google will be announcing a partnership at the gigantic Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas.
This would be a game changer. Google has built the technology platform for self-driving cars, but doesn’t produce vehicles. Ford mass produces vehicles, but is woefully behind in developing its own autonomous vehicle technology.
Well, the CES show has wrapped up and the big presentation by Mark Fields, Ford’s CEO, made no mention of a partnership with Google. So much for Yahoo Autos breaking a news story (you have to be careful about what blogs you read). Maybe there will be an announcement at the upcoming Detroit Motor Show, but I doubt it.
From a business standpoint, a Ford-Google partnership would be a dream team with each company bringing a tremendous amount of value to the table. But from Ford’s perspective, I can see this as making a deal with the devil. Based on Google’s approach with its dominant Android operating system, I think Google will continue to pursue that type of open licensing system as the way to enter the consumer auto market. My hunch is that we’ll see a smaller innovative brand, like Fiat, be the first to accept a licensing deal from Google.
In other autonomous vehicle news –
- MIT has announced they (along with Stanford) have developed a game to develop Artificial Intelligence algorithms for autonomous vehicle driving systems. They record a road as its really being. They turn that video into a simulation game to let others drive the corridor. Then the AI system learns from the crowd how people drive in different environments (staying within a lane is actually difficult for autonomous vehicles – especially in work zones or snowy conditions). Eventually this AI system will be applied to active autonomous vehicle systems, making them less reliant on GPS mapping systems of the environment.
- General Motors announces significant investment in Lyft with the intent to ultimately take the human drivers out of Lyft cars. This is similar to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s tweet saying they will be autonomous by 2030 – Uber has already launched several pilot projects in that direction.
Autonomous cars are merely an attempt by Google to recapture everyone’s commute hours and turn us into ad-clicking, phone tapping revenue generators for another concentrated hour each day. Autonomous cars only work if everyone is forced to use them. Otherwise by buying one you aren’t preventing people from driving distracted, drowsy, or drunk, you are merely freeing yourself to be irresponsible too. We don’t need to replace responsible driving with robots; we need the robots to intervene when the humans behave badly. How about you break three laws at once (signaling, speed, lane change) and the car pulls you over for a time out? People LOVE their cars, and Google misses the mark badly by attempting to solve the problem of human error by eliminating the human, and not just the error.