Google, Detroit Automakers Can't Agree on Autonomous Vehicles
June 30, 2014 2:23 PM
They may have to work together further down the road, though
Google and Detroit automakers just can't see eye-to-eye on the topic of autonomous vehicles, according to a recent report from
Google began meeting with Detroit automakers in 2012 with the intention of teaming up for autonomous vehicles. As it turns out, Google wanted to jump quickly and create a fully autonomous car while automakers felt a gradual rollout of autonomous features on existing cars would be a better idea.
There are arguments for both sides. On one hand, Google wants to release a revolutionary new product that utilizes its technologies and transforms the way people get around.
On the other hand, Detroit automakers
fear that Google could run away with their business
. Auto companies aren't quite sure if they should treat Google as a friend or foe. Interestingly, a study by KPMG last year found that American consumers would trust brands like Google and Apple for self-driving cars more than they would automakers.
Just last month, General Motor's Product Development chief Mark Reuss called Google's autonomous car
"Anybody can do anything with enough time and money," said Reuss. "If they set their mind to it, I have no doubt [that they will be] a very serious competitive threat. [The car is] kind of cool [and looks sort of like a VW Beetle].
"[Automation is] going to be a creep, it’s not going to be a mind-bending thing. I don’t think you’re going to see an autonomous vehicle take over the city anytime soon."
Google's autonomous car
Aside from that, automakers feel it's better to gradually roll out new features rather than deliver an entirely autonomous vehicle. According to the automakers, customers will more likely feel comfortable with a slower introduction to this new technology rather than all in one swoop.
Right now, Google's prototype is a tiny pod-shaped car, which has a flexible windshield and a spinning cone on top that helps navigation. Only two people can fit, and there's a top speed of 25 miles per hour.
Detroit automakers also feel that Google's autonomous cars are limited by Google Maps, which directs the cars. If there's an area not covered by the Maps, or if Maps were to malfunction in some way, it could pose a problem for the customer.
Even more troubling to automakers is the liability for these vehicles. Google's current autonomous car doesn't have driver-operated brakes,
a steering wheel
or an accelerator pedal. Without an actual human driver, the automakers fear they would be at fault for any auto accidents.
Google, however counters, saying that it would take the blame for any auto accidents involving its technology, and that finding what caused the accident would be easier with Google technology at hand.
It looks as though Google and Detroit automakers will go their separate ways on the topic for now, but some feel they will inevitably have to meet again further down the road when autonomous vehicle technology grows beyond its infancy.
"We can't expect users to use common sense. That would eliminate the need for all sorts of legislation, committees, oversight and lawyers." -- Christopher Jennings
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