Google has been rather bullish about their self-driving cars especially since tests outside of the Mountain View headquarters started last year in Austin, Texas. Hidden in the fine print of the self-driving car project is one detail people chose to ignore.
The fact is, Google does not intend to build cars. They have made this fact known several times but it is convenient not to allow the narrative be spoiled by such little details.
To drive home that fact about having no intention to build the cars, Google signed an agreement with Chrysler to help them manufacture cars that would use the self-driving technology.
One part of me had hoped that with the revamping of Google’s hardware division, self-driving cars would be integrated into the division.
But that hope was dashed because over the weekend, the first batch of the Chrysler made minivans were seen in Google headquarters in Mountain view getting ready to join the other cars on the road for test drives.
Since testing of the self-driving cars started about seven years ago, the cars have clocked over 2 million miles on the road with just a limited number of cars. The addition of the Chrysler-made mini vans means the number of miles would racked up very quickly.
Is this a sign that Google is in a hurry to end the test driving phase of the project?
Before this new cars were added to the fleet, about 60 cars were part of the car pool. The fleet contained a combination of cars designed by Google and just under half of SUVs designed and made by Lexus.
The deal signed between Google and Chrysler was for 100 minivans to be built by Chrysler for the tests. Effectively more than doubling the number of cars in the fleet.
From all indications, the deal is going to be favourable for both companies in the long run
On one hand, things haven’t been going too well for Chrysler. The company has been shopping round for technical partners to help them move the company forward in terms of making more technological advanced cars like their competitors.
Partnering with Google immediately gives Chrysler access to the cutting edge technology in Google’s possession.
On the other hand, Google gets what it has been looking for since the idea of the self-driving car became a reality: an experienced automaker able and willing to make cars in which the self-driving technology would be integrated.
In other words, Google just got themselves an iconic auto making company with a lot of pedigree.
The competition in the field of autonomous or self-driving cars is keen. Some companies like Tesla have already launched a form of autonomous cars for their customers.
Tesla’s cars are a form of hybrid, not fully autonomous; but the autopilot can be given limited control of the car in certain conditions.
The first fully autonomous cars to hit the streets was launched in far away Singapore where the MIT founded nuTonomy is partnering with the Grab, an Uber-like cab-hailing company operating mostly in the Far East.
Their aim is test fully autonomous cabs for sometime over a very small area in the city.
Uber has also been doing its bit in the autonomous self-driving car race. Presently the company is testing their own self-driving cars in Pittsburg.
Google’s highly publicized approach to self-driving cars seems to be about making sure everything is taken care of before the cars are fully launched. That is why the tests have been going on for seven years.
Google would finally pull the plug on test drives when they are sure all the nuts and bolts have been taken care of. Nothing would be overlooked.
At least, that is the impression I am getting from here.
image credit: CNN.com; 9to5google.com; Pinthiscars.com; digitaltrends.com