Another year has come and gone without the fulfilled promise of self-driving cars. True, there have been plenty of advances in the technology, and Tesla came very close with the release of its Autopilot feature. However, if you want to buy a fully self-driving car at the dealership, you're still going to be waiting a while.
The wait might not be as long as expected, though, thanks to a new rumor. It seems that Google and Ford might be striking a deal that would see Ford include Google's self-driving technology on its cars. This actually makes a lot of sense.
Google is arguably the leader in self-driving technology, with its own test cars traveling 1.3 million miles in autonomous mode. However, it doesn't have the ability to manufacture cars itself.
Google's original test cars are modifications to production vehicles. Even its newer, tiny self-driving car is built by Roush, which is a division of Ford. Building cars from the ground up is a huge undertaking and could take years to get off the ground. If it wants to bring its technology to market in any big way, and soon, it needs a car manufacturer.
Ford seems like a good choice. It's the 6th largest car manufacturer in the world, and moves more than 6 million cars and trucks every year. The Ford F-150 has been the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. for 33 years straight, with one being sold every 30 seconds. The Ford Focus is in the top 5 best-selling cars in the world.
While Ford is experimenting with its own self-driving technology, like most other car manufacturers, it could save many years and millions of dollars of research and development using Google's system.
Interestingly, the Ford/Google deal would be non-exclusive. Google would be able to license its technology to other car makers as well. Car makers already do this with other components such as airbags, so it makes sense it would work for self-driving technology as well.
It would also be nice if there weren't dozens of competing self-driving systems on the market. If we're handing our lives over cars that drive themselves, it would be nice if there were only a couple well-tested options everyone used, rather than a bunch rushed to market to tick a feature checkbox.