Google and Ford are planning to develop and build self-driving vehicles together in a joint venture and will announce the deal at next month’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, says a report in Yahoo Autos. The partnership would represent a major collaboration between two of the biggest names in the tech and automotive industries.
A Google spokesperson said the company had no comment. Ford send TechCrunch a statement that said: “We have been and will continue working with many companies and discussing a variety of subjects related to our Ford Smart Mobility plan. We keep these discussions private for obvious competitive reasons, and we do not comment on speculation.”
According to Yahoo Autos’ sources, the deal is not exclusive, which means Google would be free to work with other automakers who are interested in its self-driving car technology.
Being the first company to strike a deal with Google, however, may give Ford an edge over rivals, including Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Volvo, and Tesla, that are also working on self-driving cars and eager to get them to market. During the last CES in January 2014, Ford chief executive officer Mark Fields said that he believes somebody will introduce autonomous vehicles within the next five years.
The report says the joint venture would legally be considered separate from Ford, which means the automaker would have a buffer against accepting responsibility if any of its self-driving cars were involved in a collision. This has been a sticking point for car companies, since there are currently no regulations in places that are tailored for autonomous vehicles (Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, and Google have each stated, however, that they will accept liability for autonomous vehicle accidents).
In turn, Google gets a partner to help it handle the expense and hassle of actually manufacturing autonomous vehicles, especially if it plans to make cars available for personal ownership as well as transportation systems. Google co-founder Sergey Brin has said that the company plans to work with “top-tier OEMs” instead of keeping everything in-house and will find partners to build cars.