Google and automaker Ford are said to be in talks to help Google build its autonomous car. The companies appear to be discussing a deal for a long time and if everything goes as per plan then an announcement is expected in the first week of January 2016 at the international Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
"We work with a lot of tech companies all over the world. We keep these discussions private for obvious competitive reasons and we do not comment on speculation," Alan Hall, Ford spokesperson, told Automotive News.
The Ford-Google talks have been on since 2012. Ford even teamed up with Google in 2011 for the use of its Prediction API software to create cars that determine where a person is going by examining where he or she has already been to.
However, it is unclear whether Ford would merely design the vehicle for Google or directly supply cars equipped with sensors and computers. The vehicles could use Ford's powertrain, safety and emission components.
Yahoo Autos, quoting sources familiar with the matter, reported an announcement would be made at the CES convention. The project would give Ford a boost in self-driving software development, as it has already been experimenting with its own system for years. As for Google, the deal would help it avoid spending billions and several years of effort.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin earlier revealed that the company was looking for manufacturing partners to bring its self-driving car to the market. He said: "We're really focused on working with partners. I expect to bring it to scale, more so partnering, including with top-tier OEMs."
Ford executives have indicated that the company might work with Google, Apple or any other tech major on self-driving cars.
"It's not only about what are the things that are going to be core to us but who are we going to partner with, in some cases. Because I don't think we can just be so arrogant to think that we're going to do everything on our own and we're going to do something better than maybe a company that does that 24/7. For us, partnerships are really important," Mark Fields, Ford chief executive officer, said in an interview.
During a visit to the Ford Research and Innovation Centre in Palo Alto, when asked why Ford was not developing its own software for self-driving cars instead of going into a deal with vendors, Fields said companies were willing to work on joint ventures on projects as well as compete against each other.
He said although the company's research and development centre was working on self-driving software it "doesn't mean we won't work with others. I think that's part of the beauty of being here".
Lead automotive analyst at Gartner, Thilo Koslowski, believes it makes sense for automakers to work with Google, which in turn offers them a better platform to compete with rivals.
"The focus has shifted to looking for OEM partners to deploy the technology, rather than considering building their own vehicles. That makes sense. If Google is interested in bringing the benefit of the technology to consumers, then they need as many partners as possible," Koslowski said.