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AUTO SHOW: Google Expects Partners for Autonomous Car Project

Jan. 13, 2016
Project CEO: “We are going to be partnering more and more and more” and we will need “a lot of help.”

DETROIT — Google plans to partner with automakers on its self-driving car project but is not yet ready to announce anything concrete, the head of the project said Tuesday.

“We are going to be partnering more and more and more,” Google self-driving project CEO John Krafcik said at a conference held in the shadow of the Detroit Auto Show.

As the project evolves, Google is going to need a “lot of help” expanding self-driving cars, said Krafcik, a longtime auto executive, most recently at Hyundai. Major automakers will be able to help it produce “at scale,” Krafcik said. 

Google has been testing self-driving cars in California and Texas. Other automakers, including Audi, BMW, Lexus, Mercedes and Tesla, have also been working on bringing self-driving capacities into vehicles.

Krafcik was tight-lipped about details of the program, declining to tell a moderator how many Google staff work on the project or to estimate when self-driving cars might reach the general public.

The chief motivation is to expand mobility to more people, including the elderly and disabled, Krafcik said. 

The tech giant also sees the technology as critical to addressing deadly car crashes.

Short-term goals include improving the technology’s performance in bad weather and in complex traffic scenarios.

Google Reveals Road Errors

In related news, Google announced Tuesday that while its self-driving cars have safely driven more than 1 million miles, there have been times when humans have had to take over to avoid crashing.

System “anomalies” caused drivers to take the wheel 272 times in California test cars in the 14 months leading up to December, Google said in a report to the California Department of Motor Vehicles. The test period saw cars travel more than 420,000 miles across the state.

There were an additional 69 occasions when drivers seized control from automated systems based on their own judgment calls, according to the report. Two of the incidents involved traffic cones and three were blamed on reckless driving by someone in another vehicle.

Eight of the near-misses took place over the 53,000 miles traveled in California in 2014, while only five happened as the cars logged a hefty 370,000 miles during the 2015 part of the trial, according to Urmson.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2016

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