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Google, Detroit Split On Autonomous Cars 236

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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  • Re:detroit vs SV? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by alen ( 225700 ) on Monday June 30, 2014 @11:32AM (#47350523)

    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

  • by Kokuyo ( 549451 ) on Monday June 30, 2014 @11:36AM (#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?

  • by Shatrat ( 855151 ) on Monday June 30, 2014 @11:37AM (#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 swillden ( 191260 ) <> on Monday June 30, 2014 @11:47AM (#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.

    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.)

  • Re:detroit vs SV? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Monday June 30, 2014 @11:50AM (#47350691)

    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 nimbius ( 983462 ) on Monday June 30, 2014 @11:55AM (#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.
  • Re:detroit vs SV? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Monday June 30, 2014 @12:26PM (#47351033)

    Last I heard, Areal Atoms are built in Virginia. But I think the bastards took away their VINs. So you can't license the new ones for street use.

    They don't sell quite as many cars as Tesla, but they make up for by selling much better cars.

  • Re:detroit vs SV? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2014 @12:34PM (#47351107)

    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 dial all the way from empty-outline-of-stylized-fan-blades to fully-shaded-stylized-fan-blades, until it starts to get too hot, then twist the fan dial down to empty outlines again and the bacon dial to midway between waves and bacon..." I want it to be the comfortable temperature of my choosing. Let hot, cold, and hysteresis be a machine's problem...

  • Re:detroit vs SV? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Monday June 30, 2014 @01:05PM (#47351413) Homepage

    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 real skills and engineering background and experience.

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

    by Nite_Hawk ( 1304 ) on Monday June 30, 2014 @01:58PM (#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.

The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable. -- John Kenneth Galbraith