A band of Google's self-driving Lexus vehicles. Image: Google

Is Google actually building its own cars?

A band of Google's self-driving Lexus vehicles. Image: Google

A band of Google’s self-driving Lexus vehicles. Image: Google

Self-driving cars have a promising future, and leading the pack technologically is Google, now a household name that has long transcended its status as a search engine. First and foremost, Google is a technology company and its interest are aligned with anything cutting edge, whether it’s information technology or hardware (smart homes, smart appliances, cars). Since 2011 when Google first showcased its extremely successful self-driving Prius, later switched for a Lexus, the company has been making rapid progress. But Google rarely experiments just for the sake of it. Part of its philosophy is turning disruptive technology into a product, get it out to the people. But how do you go about self-driving cars, considering the auto business is one of the riskiest in the world? Well, just like it did with the Android for smartphones, Google could partner with the leading automakers supplying the technology. Indeed, Google confirmed this January that it had talks with General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Daimler and Volkswagen. But some highly interesting documents gathered by The Guardian suggests a possible alternate route. Google might actually build its own cars, all from scratch.

According to The Guardian report, Google Auto LLC is now headed by Chris Urmson, project lead for Google’s self-driving cars. The company was first formed in 2011 as a limited liability company, most likely out of legal considerations. In time, ambitions may have shifted. After Urmson was announced as the new Google Auto lead this May, the company announced it was going to build   100 prototype self-driving cars from scratch, without steering wheels, accelerator or brake pedals. These will likely be built per Google’s instructions by its manufacturing partner, the Detroit engineering firm Roush.

Apparently,  Google Auto LLC applied for  international vehicle identification number (VIN) codes and closely works with America’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to organize safety tests. The paperwork filed between Google Auto and the NHTS indicates “the cars are rear-wheel drive in design, with each wheel having its own braking system,” says The Guardian. Seeing how it’s a driverless car, it’s mandated by the NHTSA not to exceed 25mph, which is why the cars are powered by modest 20-30kW electric motor from a lithium ion battery.

It’s interesting to hear, in any event, that Google is this ambitious with its self-driving car tech. And why shouldn’t they be? After all, self-driving cars might become one of the fastest growing tech in the coming decade, with at as many as 10 million such cars by 2020. The competition is pretty stiff, too. Established auto makers like Mercedes, BMW or Tesla are already experimenting with their own self-driving features. They have the money, the experience and the name to make it work.


4 thoughts on “Is Google actually building its own cars?

  1. Concerned internet user

    Rubbish, 10 million cars by 2020 that is a ridiculously high number, established car manufacturers would have to turn the majority of their plants to such vehicles to meet that type of demand and further evidence that these wanna be journalists are pedalling crap with no research, expertise or understanding of the area. I really wish a bit of professionalism was shown instead of consistent nonsense being spouted. Shame on you Tibi Puiu for this drivel. Nothing you say can be trusted due to the level of incompetence in your post.

  2. Concerned internet user

    Of course I do, i’m not spouting about him not having a clue while I don’t have a clue. I work on electrification for an established premium car manufacturer. BMW sold 1.8 million vehicles total in 2014, Audi something similar, Ford is also similar (see their annual reports). That would mean that in 5 years 6 of the biggest brands would have to submit the equivalent of their current manufacturing plants to automated cars. Look up their reports you will see this is the case. In that case, this article has done none of its own homework. Look at Tibi Puiu’s response below, I just took it from here… what? You copied a fact from another source, didn’t reference it (not certain that is even legal and if it is it certainyl isn’t ethical) and assumed they were telling the truth. If that is journalism why not just put a link to their article and save us all the time.

    I am not trying to be offensive but 99% of articles I read are for click bait and I don’t like the way the trend of crappy reporting is going so yesterday I decided to write something about it and your article happened to be the first I met.

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