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Transportation Google

Google, Detroit Split On Autonomous Cars 236

Posted by samzenpus
from the irreconcilable-differences dept.
An anonymous reader writes in with this story explaining the contentious history between Google and Detroit automakers over the future of self-driving cars. In 2012, a small team of Google Inc engineers and business staffers met with several of the world's largest car makers, to discuss partnerships to build self-driving cars. In one meeting, both sides were enthusiastic about the futuristic technology, yet it soon became clear that they would not be working together. The Internet search company and the automaker disagreed on almost every point, from car capabilities and time needed to get it to market to extent of collaboration. It was as if the two were "talking a different language," recalls one person who was present. As Google expands beyond Web search and seeks a foothold in the automotive market, the company's eagerness has begun to reek of arrogance to some in Detroit, who see danger as well as promise in Silicon Valley.
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Google, Detroit Split On Autonomous Cars

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  • detroit vs SV? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2014 @10:20AM (#47350429)

    Really? Perhaps the folks from Detroit would perhaps learn something if they didn't act like they knew *EVERYTHING* about making cars. Have you seen the infotainment systems Detroit has stuck in their cars? Seriously? You guys should be listening to Google, Tesla, etc.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by alen (225700)

      those ugly systems are easy to learn and use while driving so you can keep your eyes on the road
      they aren't there to watch the game or a movie or text while barreling down the highway at 70mph

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The amazingly widespread failure in automotive UI design, one that I've never understood, (some cars don't suffer from it, so it's clearly not a fundamentally intractable problem) is the tendency to force the user to putz around with 'intensity of heat/cold coming out of the vents' rather than just providing a thermostat.

        I don't want my car to be "Turn the little dial with waves on the left, strips of bacon on the right, all the way toward the bacon, then, once you start to feel heat coming out, turn the di

        • by MightyYar (622222)

          This is a difficult problem, though. Do you want the thermostat to control the temperature of the car or the temperature of the air coming out of the vent blowing all over you? Will you automatically adjust things when the passenger, who is sitting in the shady side, closes their vent? Sometimes a simple "I'm too hot" or "I'm too cold" knob is the way to go.

        • by Zenin (266666)

          There are plenty of cars now with thermostats. And they suck big, fat donkey balls.

          Give me old fashioned fan speed and air temp knobs any day.

          The issue is that the environment instead a car just isn't stable enough for a simple thermostat to be effective. The small size and large number of strong temperature influencing features (windows, hot seats, your body, external air every time a door or window opens) mean that maintaining a single temperature throughout is incredibly impractical. To do so would re

          • by profplump (309017)

            First, the problems you describe exist in build HVAC systems as well. When you enter air conditioning from someplace hot it would often be nice to have a couple of minutes of cold air blasted at you. And there are lots of building spaces with very high throughput both in terms of people and airflow, but we don't just throw our hands up and say "thermostats can never work here".

            Second, it sounds like you're asking for a smarter thermostat than the 20s technology in many homes. That's a perfectly reasonable r

      • by epyT-R (613989)

        Actually, that's what they suck at. They use touch panels and menu systems in place of tactile controls, forcing you to look at the panel instead of keeping your eyes on the road.

      • by PRMan (959735)
        My 10-year-old Acura touchscreen was 10 times easier to use than my new Mercedes click-wheel. Also, most features now take multiple clicks where they were 1-2 clicks on the Acura So they are getting much worse.
    • by Iniamyen (2440798)
      Do you specifically mean the American marques that have crappy infotainment systems? I've owned both 2007 Toyota and 2011 Subaru infotainment/navigation systems, and as far as the software/UI goes, they were perfectly useable and functional.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by NotDrWho (3543773)

      Maybe Detroit was a little reluctant to put themselves in a position of being wholly dependent on Google for such a critical system, or allowing Google to collect all that location data on all their customers completely unchecked. I can't blame them.

      • by TWX (665546)
        Then perhaps they should make a concerted effort to get such systems up and working themselves, before they're forced through future government regulation to take someone else's system that they don't care for and use it because they lack one.

        Automakers don't do anything unless they are forced to. This is the big difference between them and tech companies; automakers change only when either their products don't sell, or when the law requires changes. We wouldn't have new fuel economy standards, strong
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by gtall (79522)

          That reluctance to change probably has to do with if you intend to sell several million of something, and you produce several million of that something, you'd better be damn sure you will sell several million of said something. Try taking those gambles with the toy systems that Google produces.

          • by TWX (665546)
            It's not quite that straightforward though. It's a reluctance to make a fundamental change even when the need has already smacked you between the eyes. The "Electronic Lean Burn" ignition system in one of my late seventies cars, along with the shoddy engine design that accompanied it is proof of that. Rather than fundamentally improve the engines to meet new emissions standards they hobbled them. They lowered the compression, they reduced the duration and lift on the cam, they added a pseudo-computerize
      • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

        Maybe Detroit was a little reluctant to put themselves in a position of being wholly dependent on Google for such a critical system, or allowing Google to collect all that location data on all their customers completely unchecked. I can't blame them.

        More likely they were concerned with who would be accountable if there were an accident.

        • by onepoint (301486)

          That's part of the entire issue. Who's to blame when 2 auto's go bump.
          While 2 compatible communication systems should not crash or even bumps, what do you do when you got a chunk of metal barreling down the road in the left lane and the driver falls asleep. While it's obvious to us that sleepy head should bear all the blame, the dispute will be fought in court.

          Not only that, I would think that this would force all the manufactures of auto's to open new companies to avoid the legal liability to the main bran

          • Losses due to collisions will be paid for by insurance companies just like now, the money coming from premiums paid ultimately be the car owners. Whether car owners pay directly to the insurance companies, or indirectly via higher prices for the cars is just a detail to be legislated around.

            That sounds worse than it is, given that autonomous vehicles good enough to be approved will have less collisions than ordinary cars.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Lumpy (12016)

      Fact: Detroit knows nothing at all about cars. They cant design them they cant build them. It's a dead town with a dying industry that does not realize that the dirt is being poured in the hole on top of them.

      They cant make anything decent anymore, and even the highest performance car made, the Corvette, is an utter joke to the rest of the world. It's built cheaply and does not impress.

      Why has this happened? Because the big 3 refuse to fire all of their management and start over with people that have r

      • Re:detroit vs SV? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Nite_Hawk (1304) on Monday June 30, 2014 @12:58PM (#47351883) Homepage

        I have to disagree. We bought a 2012 volt and other than the terrible central console interface absolutely love it. Of all of the cars we've owned over the years (A mix of domestic and imports) it's by far the best. I imagine if we owned a tesla model S we would love that even more, but our Volt cost us roughly what a nicely appointed Camry or similar vehicle would have cost. Chevy did a really good job.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Seriously, Google and others should also not act like they knew everything about everything.

  • Ego (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cornwallis (1188489) on Monday June 30, 2014 @10:21AM (#47350435)

    The entire Detroit car scene has never been about transportation. It is a sales vehicle (sorry) for egos. I think Google, much as I dislike them, are looking at cars as transportation. Too mundane for the Detroit crowd... but much more practical.

    • by TonyJohn (69266)
      I'm not sure what Google's business plan really is. Is it to make cars, or at least make money by supplying software for cars? Most of their other software they give away for free. Or do they want to free us up from driving so that we can make use of online services (and therefore adverts) instead? Or do they want all the data about where we go and when to be able to connect into the rest of our online lives and help advertise to us better? J
      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        I think your last two points hit the nail on the head. It's the same reasons they decided to make an operating system for phones. They want people to be using their online services all the time. If autonomous driving ever really starts working, to the point where we don't have to pay attention to the road, then they will have reached their goal. We'll be able to browse the web while our cars drive us to work. The may even have a device in the car like a tablet. They can sell us more apps, books, music,
        • The same goal can be accomplished with better public transportation. If every city > 500k population had a well designed rail system, many more people would be able to use their phones while commuting. I wonder if Google went into that field, would they have less opposition? A "google subway" would also make a great network of tunnels for running fiber...

  • by Firethorn (177587) on Monday June 30, 2014 @10:22AM (#47350439) Homepage Journal

    As Google expands beyond Web search and seeks a foothold in the automotive market, the company's eagerness has begun to reek of arrogance to some in Detroit, who see danger as well as promise in Silicon Valley.

    Danger to their present business models, you mean.

    Personally, I think that Tesla would be an excellent company to talk with. Elon Musk speaks their language.

    • by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Monday June 30, 2014 @10:55AM (#47350749)
      I'm sure the buggy whip manufacturers thought Henry Ford was arrogant, too.
    • As Google expands beyond Web search and seeks a foothold in the automotive market, the company's eagerness has begun to reek of arrogance to some in Detroit, who see danger as well as promise in Silicon Valley.

      Danger to their present business models, you mean.

      Personally, I think that Tesla would be an excellent company to talk with. Elon Musk speaks their language.

      I think the problem is that Google missed their opportunity to buy GM outright during the crash. My impression is that the only way to drag GM to the future is through eliminating the people that would say "Yahoo does well enough, why do we need a new search engine?". The second question to ask is whether the people that worked for GM for 25 years would be willing to work for Google-GM. My guess is that the answer is yes...

      • by HornWumpus (783565) on Monday June 30, 2014 @11:46AM (#47351211)

        GMs pension liabilities are huge. The company as currently constructed is, more or less, a non-profit structured to pay pensions.

        If you had Google type capital and wanted to enter the car market you would be insane to buy GM. Start from scratch, leave the deadwood behind. Honda B-engine VTEC should be out of patent protection. Just copy it (with racy parts) and bolt it up mid engine, modern trans and carbon fiber body. Woot. You won't be the first to found a company on a straight copy of Honda engine (Hyundai), but you could be the first to do it right.

        Quick Google: GM has about 114 billion in unfunded pension liabilities (104 billion white collar, 10 billion union which is relatively well funded). http://online.wsj.com/news/art... [wsj.com]

        GM has a market cap of 58.73 billion. A number which no-doubt reflects the future expenses (not so much, it reflects recent performance, velocity, advertising to investors etc).

    • by MrL0G1C (867445)

      No, I think the car companies are right, the tech for fully autonomous has no been proven and is far from ready.

      It's all well and good having multiple HD feeds, lasers etc but if the recognition system can't tell the difference between a car and a big fish then it is not ready.

      3D recognition might be good enough to play games on Xbox but it's not good enough to maneuver cars, trucks etc.

      Go watch the videos and you'll see how clunky the recognition systems are.(note the difference between the pre-programmed

      • No, I think the car companies are right, the tech for fully autonomous has no been proven and is far from ready.

        It's all well and good having multiple HD feeds, lasers etc but if the recognition system can't tell the difference between a car and a big fish then it is not ready.

        3D recognition might be good enough to play games on Xbox but it's not good enough to maneuver cars, trucks etc.

        I've been wondering why we are jumping right to autonomous cars and not implementing autonomous trains on a large scale instead. It seems like an far simpler problem set. Your navigation options are pretty limited. the area that could contain obstacles is pretty limited. There have been some serious accidents caused by negligent locomotive operators. Why are we going right for the hardest level of autonomous navigation in the most chaotic environment?

        After trains, why are we not working to automate tract

      • by afidel (530433)

        You seem to be ignoring the fact that Google has already done well over 1m miles of real world testing with their system without any problems caused by their recognition.

  • by disposable60 (735022) on Monday June 30, 2014 @10:22AM (#47350443) Journal

    This is the Detroit that didn't take Japanese brands seriously until it almost killed them.
    The Detroit that needed 30+ years to bring a small, efficient, powerful engine to the US.because they knew best what American wanted (big V8s for drag racing).
    The Detroit that hides the fact that Mitsubishi (Chrysler), Toyota (GM) and Mazda (Ford) built their small cars for 20-some years.
    But Google is arrogant.
    Right.

    • by Shatrat (855151) on Monday June 30, 2014 @10:37AM (#47350581)

      Is this a republicans vs democrats thread in disguise? Just because one side of the discussion is arrogant doesn't mean the other is not. Google has a long history of failed projects because they're not afraid to over promise and blindly charge into a project. I think the ignition recall is a good illustration that the automotive industry doesn't have that luxury. My Google TV appliance, which is now an abandoned project, isn't going to kill me. An abandoned self driving car project might, even if it's not my car.

      • by wiggles (30088)

        >Is this a republicans vs democrats thread in disguise?

        Isn't every thread on Slashdot a political one these days? I swear, sometimes I think this place has become a cesspool of political mudslinging. I miss the old days before politics took over.

      • I don't think you need to go digging for hidden motivations to explain American antipathy towards our corporate "friends"

      • Google has a long history of failed projects because they're not afraid to over promise and blindly charge into a project.

        Google also has a long history of successful projects for the same reasons.

      • Wait, when did stopping work on old projects become arrogant?

        Jesus. If that's now arrogance then I must be far more arrogant than I ever realised, as I've worked on many projects over the years and presently work on just one or two ...

    • by Drethon (1445051)
      Anything that costs the share holders their daily profit is highly "arrogant".
    • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Monday June 30, 2014 @10:47AM (#47350673) Homepage Journal

      This is the Detroit that didn't take Japanese brands seriously until it almost killed them.
      The Detroit that needed 30+ years to bring a small, efficient, powerful engine to the US.because they knew best what American wanted (big V8s for drag racing).
      The Detroit that hides the fact that Mitsubishi (Chrysler), Toyota (GM) and Mazda (Ford) built their small cars for 20-some years.
      But Google is arrogant.
      Right.

      Actually, Google is arrogant. The company culture deliberately and intentionally breeds a brand of arrogance, always encouraging its people to look for revolutionary rather than incremental changes, to bring 10X or 100X improvements, and works to convince them that they can succeed. Everyone is fully cognizant of the fact that if you swing for the fences you'll miss most of the time, but they figure that's okay because the successes will make up for it. And, of course, the Google-X crew is the elite of Google, people who have previously had fantastic success, built products used on a daily basis by hundreds of millions of people. So have Detroit automakers, of course, but they've built up slowly over the course of a century, while Google is still shy of its 17th birthday.

      For that matter, although we've talked about it enough for the last two or three years to make it seem less insane, there's a good argument that even attempting to solve a problem as hard as a fully automated car requires tremendous arrogance. Except that they actually seem to be succeeding, which I guess changes it from arrogance to confidence.

      So, I'd say it's kind of a given that when the old-breed, "we've been doing this for generations" brand of arrogance meets the upstart "we've literally changed the world in a little over a decade" brand of arrogance, sparks are going to fly. And the fact that the upstarts have working technology to do what the old breed still isn't sure is possible isn't going to help one bit.

      From a cultural perspective, Tesla seems like a much easier fit. That said, if Google and Detroit can find a way to work together, the disparity of backgrounds and cultures should actually make the results much better. But that's a big, big "if".

      (Disclaimer: I work for Google, but on phones, not cars, and I definitely don't speak for Google.)

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Actually, Google is arrogant.

        Well, I've seen a little evidence of that here and there, but nothing major. What's yours?

        The company culture deliberately and intentionally breeds a brand of arrogance

        You mean like practically every company ever, whose mantra is "we can do it better than the next guy so you should give us your money"?

        always encouraging its people to look for revolutionary rather than incremental changes

        Holy shit, not progress. That would be terribly forward-thinking. We must remain in the past!

        to bring 10X or 100X improvements

        Wow. I mean, when you said progress, I had no idea you meant orders of magnitude of improvement. That would be really, really terrible.

        and works to convince them that they can succeed

        ...when what they should be doing is setting them up for fa

      • Reading the article, I don't think it's a matter of arrogance, it's a matter of differing levels of safety concerns.

        Remember that the CEO of GM just had to appear before congress and have a recall over a small little ignition switches that caused 31 crashes over a decade. They have been on the losing side of lawsuits, and want to be careful.

        Google doesn't really worry about all that......they figure as long as it's safer than a human driving, then they are happy. That's something like 400,000 deaths in
        • by Rich0 (548339)

          While I think it makes an interesting ethical debate, I find it rather sickening that our legal system would probably come down on the side of having a pile of 40k bodies each year vs just automating things at the risk of a few people ending up dead.

          It is just the trolley problem in another guise, except instead of one person on one track and 10 on the other, it is probably a few on one track and 40k on the other. Heaven help the guy who wants to flip the switch.

      • by RobinH (124750)

        For that matter, although we've talked about it enough for the last two or three years to make it seem less insane, there's a good argument that even attempting to solve a problem as hard as a fully automated car requires tremendous arrogance. Except that they actually seem to be succeeding, which I guess changes it from arrogance to confidence.

        I don't think there's any evidence that Google has actually "succeeded" in coming up with a car that's marketable to the general population. It's easy to say you

      • So, I'd say it's kind of a given that when the old-breed, "we've been doing this for generations" brand of arrogance meets the upstart "we've literally changed the world in a little over a decade" brand of arrogance, sparks are going to fly. And the fact that the upstarts have working technology to do what the old breed still isn't sure is possible isn't going to help one bit.

        Working technology? Well, sort of.

        I'd like to see how comfortable these cars are to operate as random folks seeing the LiDAR unit on

        • by Krishnoid (984597)

          And I figure replacing a broken LiDAR unit would be a lot more expensive than replacing a couple of slashed tires.

          Not knowing anything about LiDAR, my first assumption was that it was pretty much like any mass-produced electronic system -- a few printed circuit boards and a power supply, and with enough sensors and emitters on it, may not even need any moving parts. Or is that wrong?

    • by Wansu (846)

      This is the Detroit that didn't take Japanese brands seriously until it almost killed them.
      And then they blamed the unions.

      The Detroit that needed 30+ years to bring a small, efficient, powerful engine to the US.because they knew best what American wanted (big V8s for drag racing).
      And in the meanwhile, put whimpy, underpowered straight 6s into full size "body by Fisher" cars and trucks and wondered why their sales fell off a cliff.

      The Detroit that hides the fact that Mitsubishi (Chrysler), Toyota (GM) and M

    • This is the Detroit that didn't take Japanese brands seriously until it almost killed them. The Detroit that needed 30+ years to bring a small, efficient, powerful engine to the US.because they knew best what American wanted (big V8s for drag racing). The Detroit that hides the fact that Mitsubishi (Chrysler), Toyota (GM) and Mazda (Ford) built their small cars for 20-some years. But Google is arrogant. Right.

      While Detroit has a long history of missing trends and stupid decisions, I think this may be as much a case of very different POVs and culture crash.

      Detroit, coming from a manufacturing POV, is probably asking themselves:

      1. What liabilities am I assuming if I do this? How many, and how expensive, lawsuits will result from this?

      2. How do I sustain this in terms of support and parts over the life of a vehicle?

      3. What will it cost?

      Google is coming from a technology POV:

      1. We can do all this cool stuff, don't w

    • A great book on this topic: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Reckoning_(1986_book) [wikipedia.org].

    • by NetNed (955141)
      Who exactly didn't know this? It was common knowledge that Mazda was 4 cylinder building engines for Ford everywhere in Michigan. Heck they had a plant in Michigan that was a Mazda plant that built only Ford engines for a while. The Numi plant in California was a Toyota/GM(Pontiac) plant till Pontiac ceased to be and that was no secret. I don't recall any of that being "hidden" or misrepresented in any way. It's been out there for a while. If you as a consumer didn't pick up on it or missed it, then that's
    • Mitsubishi didn't build all of Chrysler's small cars, just the good ones.

      There were a few exceptions, the Shelby turbo Colt for example. Too bad they almost all died, engine computer blows when the O2 sensor goes. Fucking mopars.

      I'm pretty sure that GM and Ford built their own small junk too. I would touch ether.

      GM got small cars from much farther afield then that, Korea, Germany, Australia and IIRC France (spit). I'm sure I've forgotten someplace. We're luck they never re-badged a Trabant, guess the

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      They're both arrogant, detroit has just had more experience with it than silicon valley.

  • attempting to make quality products (too hard, expensive) that can be driven to making financial assets that can be sold (easy, cheap). They are now finance companies that happen to make cars. Anything that doesn't enhance their ability to sell packages of auto loans to investors is of little interest. What Google proposes adds cost to the cars without enhancing the ability to sell loans.

    • attempting to make quality products (too hard, expensive) that can be driven to making financial assets that can be sold (easy, cheap).

      You think so? GM's finance division [wikipedia.org] had net income of $566 million on revenue of $3.34 billion in 2013. GM had net income of $6.9 billion [yahoo.com] on revenue of $155 billion. And you think they are a finance company? Their finance division accounts for 2% of their revenue and 8% of their profit. So no, GM is not a company focused on selling financial products.

      How about Ford? Ford Financial had a net LOSS of $1.2 billion [wikipedia.org] on revenues of $7.8 billion in 2012 versus the parent company making a profit of $6.25 bill

      • GM exists to finances it's pensions. GM's unfunded Pension liabilities: 114 billion $US. GM's market cap: 59 billion. http://online.wsj.com/news/art... [wsj.com]

      • by PRMan (959735)
        And a couple years ago, I read that the only profitable division of GM was GMAC and the only profitable division of GMAC was Ditech.com. So not because of cars at all.
  • Whenever two established giants in different industries require collaboration to bring a new product to market, there is always going to be power struggles and dick-waving. In this case, it is exacerbated by Google's eagerness to go right into full-blown autonomous cars instead of the incremental approach that the car companies want. This make sense since all of the responsibility of any issues that arise in this technology will be placed squarely on the shoulders of the auto makers. In any event, I thin
  • ...there will be no automated car. The legal system is so screwed up right now no company, even one 100 times Google's size, could hope to absorb the lawsuit costs.
    • by gurps_npc (621217)
      I disagree. You are assuming that we will have the same number car accidents. The majority of car accidents are caused by human error. Specifically the error of thinking "I am not drunk."

      First there will be test runs. When the test runs do not have car accidents, taxi companies will start using them. Be honest, people would rather trust a computer than the kind of guy that drives taxis in NYC.

      Then rich people will be getting them for their elderly parents - AND their children (Why sure I will get my

      • The majority of car accidents are caused by human error.

        True.

        Specifically the error of thinking "I am not drunk."

        Demonstrably false. The majority of auto accidents in no way involve alcohol. That's not to say the number of alcohol related incidents is insignificant but it clearly is not the majority.

        First there will be test runs. When the test runs do not have car accidents, taxi companies will start using them.

        That is a HUGE assumption. One that is entirely unsubstantiated at this time. You are presuming that automated vehicles can be programmed to navigate real world conditions with zero errors or unexpected conditions or human interference. In the real world accidents will happen simply because there will be times an

        • by gurps_npc (621217)
          I exaggerated when I referenced alcohol. But is is one of the major causes of accidents.

          I did make some assumptions. But that is in fact the game here. But the Assumption I made there is not huge. Yes, the first runs will have issues. But google has already proven the concept works. Most importantly, the AI cars can cut accident rates by the simple act of reducing the speed. Taxis in particular will not be adverse to having a set speed limit of 35 mph, particularly in city driving. The cars don

          • I exaggerated when I referenced alcohol. But is is one of the major causes of accidents.

            Yes it is. Roughly 1/3 according to the CDC.

            Yes, the first runs will have issues. But google has already proven the concept works.

            A research project is a LONG way from a working production vehicle. It's not even clear if the technology Google is using is technologically or economically viable on a production basis. I have over 15 years in the auto industry as an engineer and an accountant. It takes a long time for technology like that to get into production vehicles. Longer when you are talking about something that takes over the actual driving of the vehicle. This isn't like some fanc

      • Think, what a few well publicized bugs will do to your trend. E.g. failing to recognize Children's toys in the road, and the subsequent bug fix and emergency stops for blowing leaves.

        You sound like a marketer. You should put together a Power Point presentation with your prognostications.

  • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Monday June 30, 2014 @10:35AM (#47350565) Homepage

    Maybe Google should be working with a company like Tesla instead. It seems like Google would need to find a partner that a background in manufacturing cars, but was a little more innovative and forward-thinking than the big guys in Detroit have historically been.

    Along with everything else, my guess is that if this technology really becomes commonplace, it will be disruptive and it will likely result in fewer people actually owning cars. In cases like this, sometimes getting businesses with entrenched interests onboard is not only difficult, but counter productive.

  • by Kokuyo (549451) on Monday June 30, 2014 @10:36AM (#47350573) Journal

    Why don't Google and Tesla cooperate? Both are very innovative companies that have, more or less, similar attitudes, I think.

    Also, wouldn't an all electric car fit the futuristic idea of a self-driving vehicle much better than a gas guzzler?

  • Even assuming that tooling up mass production Just Isn't Doable, because reasons, this seems like Google's game to lose: Google is better at writing software than the automakers are, and all they need is one automaker to crack, admit that their software blows, and start OEMing for Google. The first hit might even be free...

    Unless they really manage to alienate people, or stagnate to the point where the incrementalists overtake them, game over, man.
  • Problem solved. The others would be scrambling to catch up after that.
    • Problem solved. The others would be scrambling to catch up after that.

      Google is an advertising company that is good at writing software. They have NO special expertise in running a manufacturing company, particularly one the size and complexity of GM or Ford. Furthermore the profit margins on car sales are much lower than Google's core advertising business. Not to mention the company cultures are NOTHING alike. I honestly can't think of anything dumber Google could do with their cash. The level of management distraction alone that this would cause is more than you can po

      • That's why they would buy a company that already has that expertise as well as supply and distribution chains. They would also be buying that production expertise, plus enough patents and patent licenses to allow them to actually move forward. Google is not completely without experience in this kind of situation.

        Given the likely intractability of the big car makers to Google's advances (they want the whole pie for themselves, they do not like to share), there may be little alternative if they want to go b
    • by Tailhook (98486)

      Those companies are a nightmare. GM is a lender and healthcare provider with car manufacturing as a side business. Between the Treasury department, the NLRB and DOT the domestic manufacturers are practically quasi-government, and the part that isn't government is run by employee unions that do their level best to ensure failure every day.

      People like Brin and Page want nothing to do with these legacy hell holes. They went to the meeting, got a big whiff of the stench, and walked away.

  • Google etc's priority is to create the new market. It's all about innovation and beating the other guy to the market.

    The auto industry (the US in particular) priority is not to have a Recall. They are all about playing it safe. That's why Japan got the first practical hybrid.

  • Exactly as much as Henry Ford needed horse-buggy makers, and no more.

    • by Andrio (2580551)

      It's going to be fascinating to watch the decline of automakers. Most people don't need or technically want a car, they want need/want the ability to travel quickly from point A to point B. The rest of the time, the car is just sitting there doing nothing.

      A fleet of automated cars will solve the automotive needs of the vast majority of people. Car sales will plummet, as well other associated industries: mechanics, automotive stores, oil change places, etc.

      It's going to be crazy. The panic we saw from Micros

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      Ford relied on them. They built the car bodies for most of the car industry well into the last century.
      All of the big coach builders worked hand in hand with Ford and the other car makers.

      Hell until the 80's most Oldsmobiles had the Fischer Coach emblem on the door sill.

  • 1. Patents on tech that will have consumer demand, which Google can profit from licensing to automotive manufacturers.
    2. How will the consumer use new-found free time while captive in a self-driving car? Google's internet services and mobile devices!
    3. The navigation needs of a self-driving car will dovetail nicely with the robotics businesses that Google has acquired. Eventually autonomous robots may free up more of your time to enjoy Google and their advertisers' products.

  • by Anubis IV (1279820) on Monday June 30, 2014 @10:53AM (#47350731)

    If you go back and listen to executives from the music or film industries talk about when they started to get approached by folks from Apple, Amazon, or others from the digital era, you'll hear similar stories. There was a lot of distrust between the sides, and what was needed was someone who could bridge the gap, speak both their languages, and help each side appreciate the problems of the other. People in many other industries think that technology is magical and that anything is possible, so they won't accept excuses or explanations to the contrary. People in Silicon Valley have a tendency to think that everything else is trivial, and fail to recognize the value in doing things in a different way...kinda like physicists [xkcd.com].

    This isn't about arrogance or bad attitudes. This is simply about two companies from different worlds, trying to get on the same page, and it's no surprise that they'd have these sorts of difficulties. They'll eventually start talking to each other, it's just a matter of when and under what conditions.

  • by nimbius (983462) on Monday June 30, 2014 @10:55AM (#47350743) Homepage
    Google made a radical change in that it never consulted any automaker during its initial trials with Lexus, Toyoya and Audi vehicles but simply chose to retrofit and augment the existing vehicles with their own technology. It also never sourced an american vehicle in its tests, which may be why among other reasons like competing technologies american automakers didnt take kindly to the event.

    to make this a production system, something people can buy in meatspace, google needs a manufacturing partner with automotive chops and recognition from the federal government. safety systems, traction and handling, transmission and engine control systems are all critical components of the vehicle that would take google another 10-12 years to design if they went and did it on their own (just ask tesla.) the ability to strap light radar,software and a 64 laser vision system to the top of a golf cart or existing car is all they have.

    Test tracks are one thing, but US and foreign auto makers pace their vehicles through some of the most rigorous and grueling testing imaginable. Lexus uses a multi-million dollar driver simulator to engineer vehicles around a person, and GM owns what amounts to an entire test city for their vehicles. for google thats an incredible asset to be granted access to. Having a team of automotive engineers with a century of experience among them to stand by and say, "that might work in a city, but on a rural route you'll kill your passengers" is what i suspect google really wants. Access to proprietary crash data and performance analytics would let google use any auto manufacturer who consented to the partnership as a step ladder to skip all the monstrously difficult work of designing and manufacturing a car, and what i believe most auto manufacturers are concerned about is seeing the lions share of their efforts go unrewarded, not to mention the decades of autonomics work they themselves pioneered being purloined by a tech giant.
  • When an android phone crashes its no big deal.
    When a car crashes people die. You can't just rush a system to market and call it "beta".

    I can understand Detroit's reluctance to be the ones stuck holding the bag when these android cars start going all SKYNET and running people down.

  • Audio jacks, such as the original 14 in (6.35 mm) version date from as far back as 1878, when it was used for manual telephone exchanges. But I never saw audio jacks included as a standard item with any car stereo until just a few years ago, long after USB ports where being installed on just about every appliance imagined. Fry's still sells devices that make it possible to connect an MP3 player to their car stereo system via an adapter that takes the form of a cassette tape.

    I don't follow automotive trend

  • Traditional car makers (e.g. Detroit 3) are not always wrong and in this case Google should not be simply assumed to be correct. Since I was not part of these meetings, I can only form my opinions based on what was reported. Still, there are some things that concern me with Google/Tesla approach to autos:

    * Unwillingness to finalize the product is part of Silicon culture. When I buy a car, I expect final product with very rare instance of patching (e.g. recalls) and no instances of altered or added function
    • by Lumpy (12016)

      "Used car market. For electric cars it doesn't exists. This means that depreciation on these is largely unknown."

      The hell it dont. There are lots of Used Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt's available. It's a car you can find these used on used car lots.

  • ...As Google expands beyond Web search and seeks a foothold in the automotive market, the company's eagerness has begun to reek of arrogance to some in Detroit, who see danger as well as promise in Silicon Valley.

    All one has to do is watch the GM CEO testifying in the Congressional hearings, and read the reports about GM's safety failures, to see the arrogance is not with google, but with Detroit. The folks in Michigan are afraid of google in the same manner that auto dealerships are afraid of Tesla's direct sales. The current, cozy, entrenched business interests are going to be upset for the benefit of the consumer.

  • This is not a surprise. Detroit makes it's money from marketing cars that are: a)"fun to drive" b)"tough" c)"stylish" d)"pretentious or class-conscious" e)some combination of the above. Safety, functionality, and reliability are boring (didn't Lee Iacocca once say, "safety doesn't sell"?).

    This is unfortunate, because I think Detroit is missing out on a great opportunity. Somebody, somewhere is going to start making autonomous cars, and people will start buying them. Detroit will find itself playing catc

  • I guess Detroit would clearly know what arrogance smells like, that's true.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the demigodic party. -- Dennis Ritchie

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