Sell your car
List your vehicle for sale today
AutoWorld News Channel
Become part of the AutoWorld News Channel
Buy a new Car
Free Quote on a New or Used Vehicle
8:58:18 AM
Custom Search
Sort by:
Go Back

Google could help make Ford the leader of self-driving cars

By: Autoweek on 12/28/2015

In the mad rush to autonomous vehicles, Ford could leapfrog the competition by doing a deal with Google to build a fleet of self-driving cars to the tech giant's specifications.

The big benefit? Instead of adding Google's electronics to an existing car, Ford engineers likely would create a purpose-built vehicle -- and learn much in the process.

The car would be developed from the wheels up to seamlessly package the complex electronics, lidar, radar and camera sensing and computer systems needed to guide a vehicle safely down the road. In other words, it would look like a normal car, not like Google's experimental "bubble cars."

Sources say the Ford-Google talks are ongoing and, if finalized over the holiday break, could be announced as early as the week of Jan. 4 during the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Neither company would confirm the deal.

Ford also is expected to make mobility a major theme of its presentation at the Detroit auto show the following week and could announce a deal there. 

Photo by Ford - 2016 Ford Fusion

Ford could base Google's vehicle on one of the automaker's current platforms, such as the Ford Fusion. But it is more likely the vehicle would be engineered from a clean sheet. And even with that, it could still be produced far faster than if Google tried to build the vehicle itself, said AutoPacific analyst Dave Sullivan.

"The vehicle will be built to Google's specifications, but contain Ford's FMVSS [Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards] know-how," he said.

Citing electronic items Google sells -- phones, speakers, computing devices -- Sullivan said the template exists for how Google would work with Ford. All those devices are made to Google's specifications, he said.

Ford may have felt pressure to partner with Google to bolster its automated-driving efforts as the competition heats up. Tesla's Autopilot technology is on the road in the Model S, and Cadillac is about a year away from launching Super Cruise on its flagship CT6 sedan.

Japanese carmakers promise self-driving technology by the end of the decade. Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Lexus and BMW are rushing to incorporate self-driving features. Thus, the technology is a must-have item for Ford's struggling Lincoln luxury brand.

Mutual Benefits

A Ford-Google deal could deliver big benefits for both companies.

By using Ford-built vehicles, Google would save billions in development costs. It would not have to design, build, test, manufacture and validate cars for safety and emissions. A deal would free the tech giant to focus on developing the automated driving software in use in a fleet of 53 self-driving bubble cars on the road in California and Texas. Those 53 cars, by the way, were assembled in Detroit by Roush Enterprises, a supplier closely aligned with Ford.

"If Google plans to market its own vehicle, contract manufacturing would make sense as the company would not have to invest billions of dollars in manufacturing capacity," said David Lim, an analyst at Wells Fargo Securities

Photo by Google - Google's self-driving car

Access to technology

In turn, Ford, which has been tinkering with autonomous vehicles and software for years, could gain access to Google's self-driving technology. Ford executives have been dropping hints all year that the automaker could work with Google, Apple or another tech giant to accelerate its quest to bring self-driving cars to market.

"It's not only about what are the things that are going to be core to us but who are we going to partner with, in some cases," Ford Motor Co. CEO Mark Fields said in a Dec. 11 interview. "Because I don't think we can just be so arrogant to think that we're going to do everything on our own and we're going to do something better than maybe a company that does that 24/7. For us, partnerships are really important."

During a visit this month to Ford's year-old Silicon Valley research center in Palo Alto, Calif., an audience member asked Fields why Ford is developing software for self-driving cars. Why not simply strike a deal to use best-in-class software from an outside vendor?

Fields joked that Silicon Valley practically invented the concept of "frenemies," which, in a corporate context, means that companies are willing to collaborate on projects and compete against one another simultaneously.

Ford's r&d center is working on self-driving software, Fields said, "but that doesn't mean we won't work with others. I think that's part of the beauty of being here."

Gabe Nelson and Nick Bunkley contributed to this report. 

The article "How Google could put Ford out front in the race to build self-driving vehicles" first appeared at Automotive News.

Get A New Car Price Quote!

Browse Our Used Car Listings

Latest News

The image the company sent to future owners who have made deposits is a lightly photoshopped sketch that Britain's Autocar magazine published in March of this year.

TVR makes progress on new Cosworth V8, teases owners with Autocar's sketch


TVR, the boutique British automaker run aground in 2006 after purchase by a Russian oligarch, is back with plenty of deposits on an undisclosed coupe and a teaser image photoshopped from an Autocar magazine sketch. The fledgeling car company is at work on a new coupe powered by a Cosworth V8 with an expected output of 450 to 500 hp, though it won't be until 2018 that customers will be able to take delivery of the cars. The factory has to be built first, even though the first year's allocation is already sold out.

TVR Chairman Les Edgar gave the future owners of the new coupe a progress report, stating that the company is running at least one engineering mule that has been operating on roads, and that they've recently fired up one of the Cosworth V8s.

Watch F1 cars rip up a mountain in Japan


Two ex-Formula One cars plus one mountain road equals an epic video shot in Japan by Motor Head Magazine.

It's not too often you see open-wheel cars on public roads -- the Stallone vehicle "Driven" notwithstanding -- but something about it makes the cars look even better than when they're on the racetrack. After the F1 cars have a go, they're followed by some drifters who are nearly as impressive.

The camerawork is also great, so check out more of Motor Head's stuff here.

Latest Reviews

2016 Dodge Challenger SXT review


It’s not fair to let the motor dominate the conversation about this 2016 Dodge Challenger. It’s a fine car without the Hemi, carrying its retro lines with enough confidence to offset its substantial visual bulk, and the new running lights/front fascia design and wide range of color/decal packages don’t hurt, either. FCA’s new interior refinements have, by this point, replaced nearly all of the unpleasant, crappy old plastics with better materials. The big-screened Uconnect entertainment system remains fast, functional and fairly intuitive (even if it would be nice to have a few buttons for features like seat warmers).

Even the LX platform, which is probably getting high enough up there in its years to be referred to as venerable, is as predictable and as fun as ever. Once you find a corner, it’s like swinging a sledge hammer: let the tool do the work. At its best, this a muscle machine that, unlike the newest pony cars from Ford and Chevrolet, doesn’t even pretend to look too far forward. I’m okay with that.

Infiniti adds a new engine family to its lineup -- starting with the Q50 sedan.

Autoweek in review

Everything you missed Dec. 21-25