Ford Fusion autonomous car prototypeEnlarge Photo
There are reports Google is in talks with Ford Motor Company [NYSE:F] over autonomous car development. The talks are said to involve a deal where Ford ends up building autonomous cars for Google, though it’s not clear if the cars are meant to be dedicated models for the tech giant or versions of existing Blue Oval products fitted with self-driving technology.
The information was first reported by Automotive News (subscription required) which cited a person familiar with the matter. The source said the talks have been taking place for some time and the first public announcement could come as early as the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, which runs January 6-9.
The report comes just days after it was reported that Google was making its autonomous car unit a standalone business under its Alphabet umbrella. The new business is thought to be a taxi-like service without an actual human driver and would most likely start in confined areas such as college or corporate campuses or military bases.
Having an existing automaker supply it with cars would save Google billions in having to design a car from scratch, including passing costly and complex certification for things like emissions and crash safety.
And going with Ford also makes sense as Google already has some close ties with the automaker. Former Ford CEO Alan Mulally joined Google’s board of directors eight days after he quit the automaker, and Google’s head of autonomous car development, John Krafcik, previously worked for Ford for 14 years. And there’s also the fact that Roush Industries, which is closely aligned with Ford, built the 100 pod-like autonomous car prototypes currently being used by Google for real-world testing.
Ford, meanwhile, is working on its own autonomous cars. Last week, the automaker confirmed that a fleet of fully autonomous prototypes based on the Fusion Hybrid sedan will start testing on California’s roads. Engineers will be based at the Ford Research and Innovation Center in Palo Alto which opened in January of this year.
Stay tuned for an update.