According to a few unnamed sources over at Jessicalessin, Google is fed up with traditional car manufacturers not wanting to get onboard with its self-driving vehicle scheme and is now pushing to get its own development deal and design the cars itself – much in the same way that it did with the Android OS platform.
Part of the reason no one wants to work with Google, could be because they’re all developing their own driverless vehicles. Mercedes has fitted its S Class range with a self-drive feature, Volvo will release something similar in 2014. GM and VW aren’t far behind, with much faster self driving and self parking cars expected within a couple of years, so it would be unlikely if everyone else didn’t have something in the works too.
Forging ahead however, Google’s current plan is to offer two different vehicle types to customers. One will be designed for individuals and families, whilst others would be more like a robotic taxi, offering autonomously driven vehicles on a rental service. Apparently to begin with a human operator would be present in-case of emergency, but that may be stripped out completely in the future.
Presumably if it’s looking to partner with hardware companies too, Google’s not far off developing a commercial product. Last year it became the first company to be granted a license by the American Department of Motor Vehicles to test self-driving vehicles on Nevada roads.
However this may not end up being a commercial venture for Google – though it’s hard to see how it wouldn’t make money from a successful deployment – but like its fibre broadband project, it’s designed to pressure the industry to refocus on self-driving vehicles and push that technology forward to bring it to the consumer faster.
For it to catch on however, it would need to come down in price a lot. Current fleets of self-driving vehicles – even the slow ones – cost upwards of £100,000 each. This would be far more expensive than your average taxi firm would be willing to splash out on, even if they did save on the driver fee. On top of that, it would restrict these sorts of vehicles to only wealthy consumers, which is not even close to the level of saturation you’d need for these cars to dominate the road and thereby benefit more from the lack of unpredictable human behaviour.
KitGuru Says: While it seems clear at this point that one day Google will be one of the mega corporations that controls the fate of humanity, I do like the idea of being able to leave my car to go park itself and then have it pick me up later.