The Self-Driving Google Car May Be Dead As We Know It

Google

It's been years in the making, but the tech giant seems to be going nowhere.

The Silicon Valley-propelled technological revolution has reshaped the face of many industries. Have you ever talked to a cab driver about Uber? Actually, when is the last time you even took a cab? The only problem is that some industries, like the one concerned with building and selling cars, are best left to the pros and not the nerds. As Autocar points out in a new piece it seems that Google is learning that lesson the hard way. Gobs of money and brilliant employees can’t turn a tech company into an automaker overnight.

It’s been years since Google began testing autonomous vehicles and aside from the occasional expected update or speeding ticket for going too slow not much has happened. That information was further backed up by the fact that Chris Urmson, the technology boss and autonomous car project leader at Google, stepped down this month. One sign that may point to his frustration with the project is a speech that he gave at the South By Southwest in Austin, Texas, earlier this year. He said, “How quickly can we get this into people’s hands? If you read the papers, you see maybe it’s three years, maybe it’s 30 years. And I am here to tell you that honestly, it’s a bit of both.”

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Unlike Tesla and, more recently Uber, Google has been adamant about releasing its fleet of self-driving cars for public use without them being fully baked to level four autonomy. For reference, level two autonomy encapsulates the abilities of Tesla’s Autopilot while level four is full autonomy where driver input in vehicle functions is unnecessary. Legal barriers and lack of testing miles may be to blame for the company’s lack of success in the field, but it could also be chalked up to the fact that Google is trying to bite off more than it can chew by aiming to both build a car and create functioning self-driving hardware and software. It's tough enough to make self-driving software, but how about starting an entire auto brand?

Now it appears that Google may try and go the route of Uber, which has been teaming up with automakers rather than trying to compete with them in order to meet its needs. By teaming with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to put self-driving technology into 100 Chrysler Pacifica minivans, Google will at least have a foot in the door, establishing the more common tech company-automaker relationship that’s being forged in the industry. The tech boom has already reshaped the automobile and will continue to do so. It’s important for the two industries to merge and gain through shared knowledge or risk faltering individually.

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