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Google puts driverless car development in the fast lane

Posted: 05 Aug 2014     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:driverless car  Google  software 

Google is a name that comes up whenever driverless cars and what many say is the inevitability of working, eating, and even sleeping in cars that drive themselves are discussed. Google technology-run Toyota and Lexus cars have already hit California roads, successfully logging thousands of miles. The search giant now readies a prototype fleet of self-driven cars without steering wheels, gas pedals, or brakes.

Indeed, Google has already become a recognised brand in a car segment that has yet to see commercialisation. However, its role in the market will probably be relegated to the less visible function as that of a software player as self-driven cars begin to see commercial launch by 2020.

By funding the publicity campaign showing how driverless cars are viable and safe, Google is helping to create demand for software it will almost certainly look to license in the future. The company will likely seek to define driverless cars as it did the smartphone market with Android, by creating and licensing the OS on which autonomous car software and components are designed.

The supply chain implications are such that automatic systems suppliers, including Continental, Delphi, Siemens, Valeo, and others, will seek lucrative margins by developing and selling their own driverless car software with the components they offer. This would mean that Google will initially compete with its customers.

Google's self-driving software for cars "would provide competition for the Tier 1 ADAS [advanced driver assistance system] suppliers that are likely to also offer such software," says Egil Juliussen, an analyst for IHS. "The top OEMs are expected to develop their own self-driving car software, but smaller OEMs will need help from Tier 1 suppliers and Google."

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Google's driverless car.

The public's interest in driverless cars stemming from Google's publicity campaign has served to motivate suppliers to ready their technology as well.

"Google's investment is also advancing the technology much faster than if the OEM/Tier 1s were not challenged by Google," Juliussen tells us. "Hence, Google's tech investment has sped up and forced OEMs to invest more money in autonomous driving and is likely resulting in earlier deployment of self-driving cars."

Google's push in the driverless car space follows the inroads it has made in the "infotainment" sector. Already, the Android OS will serve as the main competing alternative to CarPlay. Google is also backing the Open Automotive Alliance (OAA)'s development of an Android-based infotainment platform with input from Audi, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, and Nvidia.

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