General Motors open to discussion with Google on self-driving cars

The company says it would be happy to hold talks with Google and work with the company to advance autonomous vehicle research and development.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

General Motors is open to the idea of collaboration with Google on developing autonomous vehicle technology.

In an interview at the Detroit auto show, General Motors chief technology officer Jon Lauckner told Reuters:

"I'm not in charge of deciding what we will and won't do, but I'd say we'd certainly be open to having a discussion with them."

However, any automaker that pursues a working relationship with the tech giant will need to thrash out how such a partnership would operate.

"You have to figure out how would something like that actually work. Would it be something where it would be an opportunity to work together in a joint development agreement?

I'd say probably anybody who's interested ought to at least go over and kick the tires," the GM executive said.

Lauckner said that many people who are currently working on Google's autonomous vehicle program have worked with GM in the past, and he would be "completely surprised" if Google did not have a strong contribution to give to autonomous vehicle research and development. GM knows Google has talented people working within the field, as well as a most-likely vast research budget.

The comments were made two days before the leader of Google's car project, Chris Urmson, is due to speak at a conference held with the auto show. The publication says that Urmson is expected to announce Google's plans to seek partnerships going ahead in the field.

If this is true, automakers such as General Motors could offer their own expertise. For example, General Motors is focusing on infotainment features, fuel use, the development of electric vehicles and safety. At CES 2015, the automaker announced plans to add 4G connectivity to most of its vehicles over the coming year, as well as a new feature called OnStar Driver Assurance -- a sophisticated maintenance tracker - as well as a way for drivers to find discounts and shop on the go, based on their location.

However, GM is far from the only company interested in the future of the connected car. Nvidia recently revealed the Tegra X1 mobile chip, a processor balancing a 256-core GPU with an 8-core 64-bit CPU designed with connected cars in mind, Hyundai showed off the Display Audio head unit at CES which allows lower-end cars to be equipped with either Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and Audi is researching piloted driving automation technology.

See also: CES 2015: Connected car tech to watch

Google's self-driving car has logged thousands of miles in testing -- but have some way to go in terms of basic obstacle avoidance and driving conditions operability. The latest prototype uses 64 lasers to scan in full 360-degree circles, a camera and GPS technology to generate a digital 'map' of the car's surroundings. At the moment, the car is limited to slow speeds and has not left the roads of California.

The company has also tapped into infotainment and operating systems for connected cars. Android Auto, Google's answer to Apple's CarPlay, is an infotainment system designed to give drivers access to maps, music, weather and other apps.

Read on: In Google's world

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