Google has reportedly shelved its long-standing plan to develop its own autonomous vehicle in favor of pursuing partnerships with existing car makers.
The Information reports that Google’s self-driving car unit — known internally as Chauffeur — is working with established automotive names to develop cars that will include some self-driving features, but won’t ditch the steering wheel and pedal controls. The firm is already working with Fiat Chrysler, per a partnership announced in May, and that could be the start of others to come.
Google first set out to do away with the steering wheel and pedals approach, but this backtrack is from Alphabet CEO Larry Page and CFO Ruth Porat, who found the original approach to be “impractical,” according to the report. That’s despite Google’s autonomous vehicles clocking over two million miles of tests on public roads.
While Google may be taking its foot off the gas for self-driving vehicles, The Information’s sources suggest it still harbors ambitious plans and is working to introduce an autonomous taxi service before the end of 2017. Google has long been rumored to move into the on-demand car space — it offers carpooling via its Waze business — and this would bring it into direct competition with Uber. Uber began trialing self-driving taxis in Pittsburgh this year, while another, younger company, Nutonomy, is conducting similar tests in Singapore and Boston, so Google is very much playing catch-up here.
The company is hosting a media event around its self-driving car business in California on Tuesday, so we’ll have more details soon.