Ford Motor Co. could be first in line to build Google’s self-driving car, once the search giant decides it’s time to hit the road.
There’s great logic in the partnership, should the talks turn to a real deal. Google, which has already put many autonomous test vehicles through their paces on streets near its Silicon Valley home base, has stated repeatedly that it doesn’t want to get into the cash-intensive car-building business.
Ford has been the most aggressive of the Big Three American automakers, having already opened a Silicon Valley think tank and staffed it with more than 100 engineers, researchers and designers. The Detroit-based company has been a louder proponent than its competitors for a connected car or autonomous car future, basing many of its ideas in a long-range scheme known as the Ford Smart Mobility Plan.
Ford earlier this month received a permit to begin operating a driverless car on California public streets as part of the California Autonomous Vehicle Testing Program.
Ford executives said at the time that a Ford Fusion hybrid was already being tested in a closed-course setting in the Palo Alto area, and that a small fleet of 2016 Fusions would soon come to California and begin driving around Silicon Valley and San Francisco streets.
Michelle Krebs, senior analyst at Autotrader, said the talks make good sense.
“Ford is smart to be an early partner with Google before its competitors, and Google is smart to partner with an automaker,” Krebs said. “The complexity is less and profits higher using the supplier partner model.”
The news of the conversations was broken by Yahoo News.
But neither side will confirm the talks. Google representatives did not respond to requests for comment. A Ford spokesperson said in a statement, “We have been and will continue working with many companies and discussing a wide variety of subjects related to our Ford Smart Mobility Plan. We keep these conversations private for obvious competitive reasons.”