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Transportation Businesses Google

Report: Google Partners With Ford To Make Self-Driving Cars (yahoo.com) 143

An anonymous reader writes: A new report from Yahoo Autos says Google and Ford plan to announce a partnership to build self-driving cars. "By pairing with Google, Ford gets a massive boost in self-driving software development; while the automaker has been experimenting with its own systems for years, it only revealed plans this month to begin testing on public streets in California. Google has 53 test vehicles on the road in California and Texas, with 1.3 million miles logged in autonomous driving. By pairing with Ford, the search-engine giant avoids spending billions of dollars and several years that building its own automotive manufacturing expertise would require. Earlier this year, Google co-founder Sergey Brin said the company was looking for manufacturing partners that would use the company's self-driving system, which it believes could someday eliminate the roughly 33,000 annual deaths on U.S. roads." Automotive News reported on the same plans independently, saying, "It isn't clear whether Ford would design a purpose-built vehicle for Google or supply a standard production car fitted with the sensors and computers that the car needs to guide itself down the road."
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Report: Google Partners With Ford To Make Self-Driving Cars

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  • ... while the automaker has been experimenting with its own systems for years, it only revealed plans this month to begin testing on public streets in California.

    Given that they'll be testing in California, is there any chance those cars will be electric?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    You know you want one.

  • I still don't understand, why we don't have self-driving trains already — the task is so much simpler with one-dimensional roads, no size/weight restrictions on the necessary equipment, and full control of the signs and signals — without having to teach the computer to understand, what's meant for humans...

    • I still don't understand, why we don't have self-driving trains already

      Blame the Unions, which oppose, strenuously, any automation that could 'cost jobs'.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Why do you hate the working families of this country?
        • Unions in this country behave more like (and often are) the mafia. Compare them vs the ones in Europe, big difference.

    • Already being done (Score:4, Informative)

      by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @03:26PM (#51166755)

      I still don't understand, why we don't have self-driving trains already

      We already do [wikipedia.org]. You could have found that out in under 20 seconds on google. It's being implemented on normal railways too [wikipedia.org].

      the task is so much simpler with one-dimensional roads, no size/weight restrictions on the necessary equipment, and full control of the signs and signals

      I think you may be underestimating the complexity of train operations. Nevertheless the cost of a person to operate the train is much smaller in comparison to a car. Trains already do have a lot of automation and are getting more all the time but the financial potential of automation isn't nearly as large as with automobiles.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by mi ( 197448 )

        We already do

        According to the link, the first such automated train line opened in 1967. That 50 years later the vast majority of trains remain human-operated, is a sign of failure.

        I think you may be underestimating the complexity of train operations.

        Do enlighten me then. What is the train-driver ("engineer") supposed to do, that a computer-program can not do? A program much simpler, than the kind, that can read anthropocentric road-signs and judge intentions of human drivers on a 4-way stop?

        Nevertheless the

        • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @04:49PM (#51167261) Homepage

          There's a few practical considerations:
          1) They're operated by professionals. I have a relative that is a long haul driver here in Norway, here's some of the differences:
          a) Far more rigorous training to drive a truck than my car
          b) Health cerificate (otherwise only drivers above 70)
          c) More frequent renewal
          d) Rest periods verified by electronic meter
          e) Can not drink alcohol up to 24 hours before driving
          f) Maximum speed is capped to 90-100 km/h depening on class
          g) Far more frequent road checks of papers, technical condition and securing of cargo

          2) Pilots, bus drivers, train drivers and so on have a responsibility for a lot of lives. Most of them take it very seriously and act professionally.

          3) We only need a small fraction of the population to be professional drivers, if it's not right for you there's plenty of other occupations.

          Regular cars on the other hand is operated by almost everyone, which tells you the requirements aren't all too high. And we have a lot of people who might be qualified drivers if they were sober, rested and paying attention but just drive when they shouldn't. Or our health is failing and the car is our lifeline to getting around, so we refuse to give it up. And ultimately we as a society depend on cars, so we don't really want to put the thumbscrews on the requirements or punishments. So the potential for improvement is far greater.

          • by mi ( 197448 )

            Pilots, bus drivers, train drivers and so on have a responsibility for a lot of lives. Most of them take it very seriously and act professionally.

            Sure, sure. Their pay may be well-earned. But would not a computer be cheaper and better still?

            • But would not a computer be cheaper and better still?

              Not necessarily and the reasons are usually based in economics. I run a manufacturing plant for my day job. Much of what we make in our plant can be substantially automated. The technology already exists and I could write a check to buy it tomorrow. But I don't most of the time. Why? No return on investment. For automation to make sense a few things have to happen. 1) The automation has to do a job with adequate or better competence than the people it is replacing. 2) The automation has to deliver

        • What is the train-driver ("engineer") supposed to do, that a computer-program can not do?

          Train engineers are effectively a pilot very much like the pilot for an airplane or a ship. Much of what they do can be and has been automated to some degree. In a few cases there are no human operators but not always. Engineers are useful both technically and economically. Full automation of any kind has to cover enough corner cases, do all the things that human operators can and be low enough priced to justify the high up front costs. Do a little studying on what it takes to operate and pilot a train

    • I am guessing that it is the "one-dimensional" nature that holds the answer to your question.

      How much does it cost to employ 1 engineer to operate (speed up, slow down, etc) 1 train?

      How much would it cost to develop, test, implement and support a computer system for 1 train? More than it costs to employ 1 person for that train? There you go.

      Now... self driving tractors on the highway... that would be huge...

      • by frnic ( 98517 )

        You beat me to it, I was going to simply say, if it was profitable, it would already be done.

      • But once the computer system is developed, tested, and implemented once - it should cost a LOT less to replicate to other trains than adding more humans. So yes, the up-front costs are higher, but the per-unit costs should be substantially lower.
        • but the per-unit costs should be substantially lower.

          The salary of the train drivers is only a small fraction of the total operative costs for the train company.
          Same also for a potential computer.

          Whoever/whatever you put on the command of a train isn't going going to play a big part on the price of the ticket.
          Companies have no financial incentive to switch from one to the other. Maybe they'll spare a small fraction of percent of the price.

          What will probably happen in the near future is probably what happens in some airplanes and a few high-speed trains:
          as th

    • I still don't understand, why we don't have self-driving trains already — the task is so much simpler with one-dimensional roads, no size/weight restrictions on the necessary equipment, and full control of the signs and signals — without having to teach the computer to understand, what's meant for humans...

      We do have self-driving trains, and have had them for ages. The most immediate example that springs to mind is the Paris Metro, which has an entire line that is fully automated [wikipedia.org].

      It has carried well in excess of 100 million passengers with only a handful of minor incidents.

    • Self-driving trains are here today [youtube.com] where unions and passengers tolerate them. You are right, this is much simpler and, therefore, has long been solved.
    • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @04:08PM (#51167041) Journal

      I still don't understand, why we don't have self-driving trains already

      We do. The elevated trains in Chicago went from four employees to three to two down to one, who is basically just there for emergencies.

      They won't do unmanned self-driving trains because people would freak out if they didn't think there was at least one human manning the train. Not everyone is enlightened as we few, we happy delusional few, we band of nerds who actually believe we're all going to be riding in self-driving cars in our lifetime.

      It's the same with airplanes. There's no need for pilots and co-pilots on commercial passenger airlines any more. But take the pilot out of the cockpit and a lot of people ain't gonna fly anywhere.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        Not everyone is enlightened as we few, we happy delusional few, we band of nerds who actually believe we're all going to be riding in self-driving cars in our lifetime.

        To be honest, I don't care. As long as they haven't been out with the torches and pitchforks against Google's car, they hopefully won't protest against others riding in self-driving cars. All the people who won't ride the newfangled horseless carriage is not really my concern.

        • All the people who won't ride the newfangled horseless carriage is not really my concern.

          It is when they pass a law that you can only drive it when there's another person walking in front of it, waving a red flag.

      • There's no need for pilots and co-pilots on commercial passenger airlines any more. But take the pilot out of the cockpit and a lot of people ain't gonna fly anywhere.

        Not sure where you got that. Flying a huge passenger plane through dense, highly controlled airspace isn't nearly the same as flying a drone over Afghanistan. Not to mention getting approved by the Feckless Aviation Administration.

      • by mjwx ( 966435 )

        I still don't understand, why we don't have self-driving trains already

        We do. The elevated trains in Chicago went from four employees to three to two down to one, who is basically just there for emergencies.

        They won't do unmanned self-driving trains because people would freak out if they didn't think there was at least one human manning the train. Not everyone is enlightened as we few, we happy delusional few, we band of nerds who actually believe we're all going to be riding in self-driving cars in our lifetime.

        It's the same with airplanes. There's no need for pilots and co-pilots on commercial passenger airlines any more. But take the pilot out of the cockpit and a lot of people ain't gonna fly anywhere.

        Hi, It looks like you're delusional about automated controls, would you like some help.

        Autopilot is far from infallible, that's why we need two pilots in the cockpit. People on US Air flight 1549 will sure as fuck be glad there were real humans in the cockpit. ILS are regularly turned off or degraded for a variety of reasons, this is reason behind Asiana 214 which crashed at SFO. There is a lot of wisdom in refusing to fly on a plane without pilots.

        Aslo pilots aren't sitting in the cockpit drinking co

        • Autopilot is far from infallible, that's why we need two pilots in the cockpit.

          Of course. And at least one person at the front of the train, if you don't mind.

          Secondly, automated cars are not the silver bullet you imagine them to be.

          Whoa there. You're preaching to the choir. I don't believe that anyone reading this will live to see ubiquitous autonomous cars. I think it's all a lot of hype.

      • They won't do unmanned self-driving trains because people would freak out if they didn't think there was at least one human manning the train. Not everyone is enlightened as we few, we happy delusional few, we band of nerds who actually believe we're all going to be riding in self-driving cars in our lifetime.

        I've been on the Vancouver SkyTrain. Nobody was freaking out. They were all enjoying fare-dodging because there was nobody on the train to check their ticket.

        • I've been on the Vancouver SkyTrain. Nobody was freaking out.

          That's because Canadians are more chill than Americans, and generally more drunk.

    • "I still don't understand, why we don't have self-driving trains already — the task is so much simpler with one-dimensional roads, no size/weight restrictions on the necessary equipment, and full control of the signs and signals — without having to teach the computer to understand, what's meant for humans..."

      We have all that already, even backwards countries have at least automatic slowdowns, automatic braking when a pre-signal is ignored, automatic speed control and so on, only there has to be

    • Step outside the technological backwater known as the USA (sorry, but you are now) and you'll find self driving trains have been around for decades in europe and the far east.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      They are used in large parts of the world. For example, an ICE is entirely self-driving above 160km/h, the operator can only trigger an emergency-brake. The US is just completely stuck in the past here.

    • When a passenger train carries 2000 people, or a freight train pulls 100 cars, the cost of the driver is pretty small per unit of cargo. Contrast with a bus with 40 passengers, or a taxi with one passenger, or a single truck. So there is less of an economic need to automate.

  • I think that should read "we're going to kill those 33,000 people in new and interesting ways."
  • It isn't clear whether Ford would design a purpose-built vehicle for Google or supply a standard production car fitted with the sensors and computers that the car needs to guide itself down the road.

    Either way, the odds are good the Ford front end will yet again be cribbed from the Aston Martin style book.

  • What Google gets (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @03:03PM (#51166607)

    - Political clout. Ford has plants in many states, and a network of dealerships in every state. And many loyal truck and car owners who vote.

    Anything else? Well I did mention the network of dealerships, right.

  • by Lucas123 ( 935744 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @03:07PM (#51166625) Homepage

    1. There was no way Google was ramping up a manufacturing line. That would have been too risky and costly. It's always been about selling the software IP, just like Microsoft knew the money was in software licensing not the commodity hardware. Vehicles will be defined by software in the future. Expect Apple to jump into this game as well.

    2. The pod car (sans steering wheel) Google has been testing would never have been marketed to consumers; it was a service vehicle for the taxi and delivery industries.

    3. Autonomous vehicles will mostly be electric and aimed at urban areas where short travel distances don't require exceptionally high-capacity batteries and high-concentrations of pollution can best be targeted for reduction.

    • I doubt self-driving cars are going to be in common use anytime soon maybe in two or three decades if at all. Assisted driving already exists to some extent and will likely get much better before that.

  • by darkain ( 749283 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @03:09PM (#51166631) Homepage

    Just what we need, the Google Pinto!

  • This is cool, but it would be great if they could start by having Google replace SYNC.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    • I'm not familiar with the SYNC software, but if Android is anything to go by, I definitely don't want Google making the software for my car.

      • by xlsior ( 524145 )
        The basic non-touch version of Sync runs on Windows CE.
    • I'll be happier if they just replace iGoogle.

    • They've been promising Android Auto on Sync 3 vehicles since early 2015. As a matter of fact, I wanted to buy a Ford vehicle if they would just roll out Android Auto (and/or include Sync 3 on all new sync-equipped 2016 vehicles).

      Sync 1 & 2 deserve to be dead. But Sync 3 is based on QNX instead of Windows Embedded and in a test run it handled everything I threw at it - FLAC, AAC, MP3. But what I'd really rather have is Android Auto.

      I gave up on waiting and bought a Hyundai Sonata. What they lack buil

    • Ford SYNC is already being replaced although they are keeping the name. The first two generations of SYNC were based on Windows Embedded. Generation 3 is based on QNX and has a new simplified user interface. The jury is still out on whether it is as good as what other software developers might be able to provide, since it just started to appear in a few 2016 models in September.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is the only partnership that would let them get away with using the Model G name. It was inevitable.

  • We put that dress on a pig. It's going to run a muck and shit all over place, and everyone is going to say,"Well. Yeah. But it's silk."

  • "it's understood the venture would be legally separate from Ford, in part to shield the automaker from liability concerns"...because it may eliminate 33,000 deaths/year "someday".

    This is not showing a whole lot of confidence for the short term, however. If there was a high confidence that the cars actually were safer, and that the financial risks were manageable, then Ford would just build the cars without a liability shield.

    Ford and Google will take the profits, and the public can assume the risks.

  • If Nexus line is any indication, that will switch through every car manufacturer?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    An average taxi driver will rack up 70,000 miles a year, so any individual taxi driver who has been in work for 20 years has more miles under his belt than Google's entire project.

  • Drive a gord, the greenest vehicle on the planet. Grow 'em in your back yard and put wheels on 'em. Sorry. I'm just in that kind of mood.

  • A higher quality car since they will have to stop running windows on it.
  • Makes sense. Ford has expertise and factories to mass produce cars. Google has the AI, computer vision, and other necessary expertise to make the self-driving part work. Google is not a manufacturing company at heart and it doesn't make sense for it to become one, at least not right now. (That could change in the future, as it has for Microsoft.)

    Some hard questions remain. Should Google find an exclusive manufacturing partner or offer Google Cars that are made by more than one company? How should the cars b

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