Ford, Google to Partner on Self-Driving Car (Report)

Michael Walker
Ford CEO Mark Fields

The partnership, expected to be announced at the CES show in January, would mark the beginning of a seismic shift in how cars are designed, built and driven.

Ford Motor Co. and Google are forming a strategic partnership to build autonomous cars which will be unveiled at the CES show by the automaker's CEO in Las Vegas next month, Yahoo Autos reported, citing anonymous sources.

If confirmed, the partnership would the mark the first in what is expected to be a growing number of legacy automakers joining forces with Silicon Valley tech companies to build semi- and fully autonomous cars.

Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Volvo and other car manufacturers have been developing autonomous cars for years, and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk recently predicted that Tesla, which added semi-autonomous features to its Model S and Model X models earlier this year, would field a fully autonomous car in the next two years.

Google's partnership with Ford would allow it to bring its self-driving technology to the mass marketplace without investing the billions of dollars required to manufacture the car. Ford would benefit by acquiring proven autonomous technology — Google has logged more than 1 million miles test-driving its fleet of egg-shaped autonomous cars in California and Texas — that it could retrofit into existing cars or use to build new autonomous vehicles.

The Google-Ford partnership raises the possibility of a similar arrangement between Apple and a major car manufacturer.

In September, Apple greenlighted its secret Project Titan, widely believed to be devoted to building an Apple-branded car, authorizing the hiring of 1,200 additional employees and committing to a ship date in 2019. Speculation that Apple's car would be self-driving increased after it was reported the company met with officials at a former Navy station outside San Francisco used to test autonomous vehicles. 

Although still in their infancy, autonomous cars are expected to transform the automobile industry and personal transportation over the next decade, as a new generation of consumers whose attitudes towards driving and car ownership enter the marketplace
 
In an interview earlier this month with The Hollywood Reporter, Sheryl Connelly, Ford's in-house futurist, cited a U.S. Department of Transportation study that reported the percentage of 16-year-olds possessing a driver's license had dropped from 70 percent in 1978 to 50 percent in recent years as smartphones and social media supply the personal connectivity and freedom that access to a car once provided. Digital devices have created a society where people can be "virtually together but physically apart," said Connelly.
 
The announcement of the Google partnership is expected to be made at Ford's CES press conference on Jan. 5.
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