DETROIT -- Most automakers and suppliers see self-driving cars arriving at the end of a long, step-by-step process. Google wants to skip straight to the endgame.
Nevertheless, the search engine giant is turning to industry players for help, seeing them as pivotal to its goal of bringing self-driving cars to market, John Krafcik, the veteran auto executive who now leads Google’s car project, said today at the Automotive News World Congress on Tuesday.
Finding partnerships is one of Google’s priorities for 2016, Krafcik said. The comments gave further fuel to speculation that Google -- which has repeatedly disavowed any intention of becoming a vehicle manufacturer -- is searching for companies willing to build cars that would use its software.
“We are going to need a lot of help,” Krafcik said, “and in the next stages of our project, we’re going to be partnering more and more for sure. You can count on it.”
Google, which started a self-driving car program at its labs in 2009, has driven 1.3 million miles under computer control with its fleet of prototypes, and is logging 10,000 to 15,000 miles per week.
Last fall Google hired Krafcik, a former executive at Ford, Hyundai and TrueCar, as CEO of the self-driving car project, showing its determination to commercialize the technology.
Google is still refining its technology. Krafcik said other goals for 2016 include testing Google’s prototypes in places besides California and Texas, and refining the performance of its car in tricky weather conditions such as heavy rain and snow.
Yet the comments about partnerships show Google’s interest in going to market.
Multiple outlets, including Automotive News, reported in December that Google and Ford were nearing an agreement on joint development of self-driving cars. Google dismissed the report as speculation. Ford said it has discussions with many companies.
“We’ve been delighted by the amount of inbound interest,” Krafcik said.