Why Google, Detroit not in sync over self-driving cars

By Robert Lawson, Tech Times | July 1, 6:10 AM

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Google and carmakers in Detroit are not in agreement over plans for self-driving cars. Why the tension?
(Photo : Google blog)

Google seems to be at odds with Detroit's traditional automakers over the idea of a self-driving car being made available to consumers in the near future. Their pod-car is in its trial stages, but sources say it may remain a small operation with little support from the traditional American car industry.

The tension between Google and these carmakers has a bit of history already. A year ago, reports indicated that a possible deal was in the works but talks discontinued. 

There is reportedly a sense of arrogance felt with Google on the part of the automakers. An unnamed manufacturer suggested that members of Google's team in 2012 had an arrogant attitude about the deal.

"We know what we're doing, you just help us," was the words used to describe Google's attitude about the self-driving car project. 

Google reportedly offered to take responsibility for any liabilities caused by the autonomous vehicles, but the automaker was quick to point out that those legal representatives and the courts would decide blame, not either of the two companies.

Reports suggest that the carmakers and Google both went into meetings with enthusiasm, but so many disagreements put the kabash on talks. Aspects such as capabilities and time to market were met with disagreement from both sides. 

Many executives in the auto industry are nervous about Google and the prospects it might bring, particularly corporate culture clash, liability and regulations. These are areas of industry Google has yet to make tracks in, in regard to the auto industry at least. Google is moving its way beyond search into areas of industry like health care and robotics.

Part of the issue may also lay in brand image and marketing. Detroit manufacturers, unlike Google, have existed on marketing the active nature of driving. Google's project car, which currently travels only 25 mph maximum, does not incorporate a steering wheel or gas and brake pedals. Also, it was reported that Google wants to make the cars only available when needed, or on demand, which is a radical move from individual ownership. The carmakers may have a point, considering that automobiles have been a symbol of American freedom for more than a century.

Other executives feel that Google represents a possible competitive threat to the automakers in Detroit. 

One definite change would be driver behavior. All of the things that are against the law, or distract drivers on the road today, could become regular routine during cars that drive themselves and are enabled with Google's search technology.

Google earns money through advertising. Google hasn't quite figured out how to translate the car project into profits, but building in search and customized content features into driving may be part of the company's goal.

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