Google in talks with car makers, insurers about self-driving car

Excerpts from The Detroit News:

Search engine giant Google Inc. thinks self-driving cars can be on U.S. roads in the next few years and is in talks with automakers to roll out the technology.

“The most important thing computers can do in the next 10 years is drive a car,” Google project manager Anthony Levandowski told a crowd of several hundred engineers Wednesday at the SAE World Congress in Detroit.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Google could make an announcement as early as next year on when it might offer the self-driving technology, he said.

“We don’t know what it’s going to take to show its safer than a driver,” he said, but he predicted: “It’s much sooner than the next decade.”

Google needs to prove mathematically that the self-driving cars are safer — and make fewer mistakes — than drivers. Google says that its self-driving cars on average complete a test course a couple of seconds faster than human drivers.

Google’s self-driving vehicles are retrofitted Toyota Prius sedans with added sensors and cameras.

Google could partner with one automaker to offer the technology or it could retrofit a small fleet of vehicles.

“We don’t want to make cars. That’s not our interest,” he said.

Levandowsi told reporters after his speech that Google is in talks with major automakers.

“All options are open. From giving the technology away to licensing it to working with Tier 1s, Tier 2s, working with the OEMs, building a car with them, everything is open and we’re trying to figure out which paths make the most sense,” Levandowski said. “We’re talking to basically every car company to see what their level of excitement is and how do we work with them.”

The company is moving ahead, meeting with insurance companies as part of a multi-pronged effort to make computer-driven cars a reality.

Google says it is not clear if the search engine would have to provide some insurance to early drivers using the system.

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