Detroit (by Joseph White for Reuters) — Alphabet Inc’s Google wants to form more partnerships with established automakers and suppliers this year to accelerate its work on self-driving cars, the head of the Google project said on Tuesday.
John Krafcik, the newly hired president of the Google self-driving car project, did not mention any automakers by name. However, appearing at a media conference at the Detroit auto show, Krafcik surveyed a room packed with hundreds of auto industry executives and said: “We hope to work with many of you guys.”
Google officials have said previously the internet search company does not want to build vehicles, but instead supply the software and mapping to allow a car to safely navigate busy streets and highways.
“No one goes this alone,” Krafcik said. “We are going to be partnering more and more and more.” He said he hopes to form more alliances this year.
Google has worked with automotive suppliers and contract manufacturers to build a small fleet of prototype self-driving cars – small, light pod-cars that look nothing like the sport utility vehicles and pickups on display at the Detroit show.
Google, major global automakers and several auto technology companies such as Delphi Automotive, Continental AG, and Mobileye NV are jockeying to define and lead development of vehicles that use machine vision, sophisticated maps, and artificial intelligence to take over for error-prone human drivers.
Krafcik said he believed partially automating the operation of a car, requiring drivers to take command under certain conditions, can create safety problems, a key point on which Google and most automakers differ.
The car “has to shoulder the whole burden,” he said.
Most automakers, including General Motors, Tesla, Daimler AG, and Nissan are pushing to get cars on the road that allow hands-free driving under certain conditions, but require the driver to take over in more complex situations such as city driving.
(Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and Bill Rigby)
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Chinese Internet search giant Baidu announced on Thursday that its self-driving car has “successfully completed rigorous, fully-autonomous tests… under a variety of environmental conditions.”
Following the test, Baidu is claiming to be “the first in China to have demonstrated full autonomy under mixed road conditions.”
Baidu started working on the technology back in 2013, and says it aims to map the majority of China’s roads with its own 3D mapping system within 10 years. That’s no small feat considering the size of the country.
Tech giants including Google and Apple are known to be working on their own (self-driving) car technology, and Tesla chief executive Elon Musk took to Twitter last month to say he was looking for “hardcore” software engineers to beef up the company’s self-driving car software.
“The road tests were carried out under complex road conditions, and the Baidu vehicle — a modified BMW 3 Series — completed the tests by executing a comprehensive set of driving actions and accurately responding to the driving environment,” Baidu said.
It added that the car speed peaked at 100 km per hour during the test runs.
The vehicle managed to make right and left turns (as well as U-turns), decelerate when detecting vehicles ahead, change lanes, pass other cars, merge into traffic from on-ramps, and exit from off-ramps.
While the technology is clearly starting to progress in leaps and bounds, I expect that China — like every other country — will take a good few years to mull over self-driving car regulations before they become road-legal and available to the public at large.
For now, a cool step forward for Baidu and China.
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