Image: A prototype of Google’s own self-driving vehicle is seen during a media preview of Google’s current autonomous vehicles in Mountain View, California September 29, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
By Joseph White
DETROIT (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s Google wants to form more partnerships with established automakers and suppliers this year to accelerate its work on self-driving cars, the head of the Google project said on Tuesday.
John Krafcik, the newly hired president of the Google self-driving car project, did not mention any automakers by name. However, appearing at a media conference at the Detroit auto show, Krafcik surveyed a room packed with hundreds of auto industry executives and said:
“We hope to work with many of you guys.”
Google officials have said previously the internet search company does not want to build vehicles, but instead supply the software and mapping to allow a car to safely navigate busy streets and highways.
“No one goes this alone,” Krafcik said. “We are going to be partnering more and more and more.” He said he hopes to form more alliances this year.
Google has worked with automotive suppliers and contract manufacturers to build a small fleet of prototype self-driving cars – small, light pod-cars that look nothing like the sport utility vehicles and pickups on display at the Detroit’show.
Google, major global automakers and several auto technology companies such as Delphi Automotive Plc, Continental AG and Mobileye NV are jockeying to define and lead development of vehicles that use machine vision, sophisticated maps and artificial intelligence to take over for error-prone human drivers.
Krafcik said he believed partially automating the operation of a car, requiring drivers to take command under certain conditions, can create safety problems, a key point on which Google and most automakers differ.
The car “has to shoulder the whole burden,” he said.
Most automakers, including General Motors Co, Tesla Motors Inc, Daimler AG, and Nissan Motor Co, are pushing to get cars on the road that allow hands-free driving under certain conditions, but require the driver to take over in more complex situations such as city driving.
(Reporting by Joseph White; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and Bill Rigby)
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