Google has changed course from its plan to build autonomous vehicles exclusively with no steering wheel or pedals and will instead work together with OEMs on more conventional cars.
According to The Information, Alphabet chief operating officer Larry Page and chief financial officer Ruth Porat found the plan to develop a Google car end-to-end ‘impractical’.
This also avoids Google’s problem that US federal law currently forbids cars without steering wheels.
For the new strategy, Google parent Alphabet has created a new company called Waymo to focus on its driverless technology.
Waymo’s objective is to ‘make it safe and easy for people and things to move around’, and its chief operating officer will be John Krafcik, who led the Google Self-Driving Car Project.
Krafcik told the Financial Times that Waymo was ‘all in’ on ‘fully driverless solutions’, instead of incremental driver-assist technology like Tesla’s Autopilot.
He added: ‘The car might still have a steering wheel and controls in it. Today, there isn’t necessarily a path to mass-produced cars without steering wheels in them, given rules and regulations.’
The project will be moving out of Alphabet’s research lab, X, signalling that the technology is nearing deployment. Sources close to the project told CNET that the company hopes to launch a ride-sharing service with autonomous cars by the end of 2017.
Google’s decision mirrors that of Apple, who decided instead to focus on developing an autonomous system for use by OEMs.
The news comes as Delphi Automotive plans to launch driverless ride-sharing pilots in Europe and the US.
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