Google hoping to speed efforts to bring self-driving cars to market by 2020

Google has begun discussions with most of the world's top auto-makers and has assembled a team of traditional and non-traditional suppliers to speed efforts to bring self-driving cars to market by 2020.

"We'd be remiss not to talk to...the biggest auto manufacturers. They've got a lot to offer," said Chris Urmson, director of Google's self-driving car project.

Those manufacturers include General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Daimler and Volkswagen. "For us to jump in and say that we can do this better, that's arrogant," Urmson said.

Google has not determined whether it will build its own self-driving vehicles or function more as a provider of systems and software to established vehicle manufacturers.


Google's self-driving prototype cars, he said, were built in Detroit by engineering and speciality manufacturing company Roush.

Urmson's expectation that the first fully autonomous vehicles will be production-ready within five years mirrors the view expressed a day earlier by another Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla Motors.

Musk said he expects the lack of clear regulations covering self-driving cars could delay their introduction until 2022 or 2023. Urmson, however, said his Google colleagues “don’t see any particular regulatory hurdles”.

Google shortly will begin deploying a test fleet of fully-functioning prototypes of its pod-like self-driving car, which dispenses with such familiar automotive parts as a steering wheel and brakes.

While each of the Google prototypes will have a “test driver” on board, the cars have no provision for human intervention in steering or braking.

Urmson suggested the no-frills look of the Google prototypes, a far cry from the opulent appearance of the self-driving F015 concept vehicle unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas by Mercedes, does not necessarily reflect the final design for production.

He described the Google prototype as “a practical, near-term testing platform” that will evolve over time. “Airliners today don’t look like the Wright brothers’ flyer” of 100 years ago, he said.

Urmson said self-driving cars represent a “transformative” moment in the evolution of transportation, an opportunity to extend motoring to blind, elderly and disabled persons who otherwise could not drive. – Reuters