The partnership is set to be announced by Ford at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. Ford gets a boost in self-driving software development. It has been experimenting with its own systems for years, it only revealed plans this month to begin testing on public streets in California. Google has 53 test vehicles on the road in California and Texas, with 1.3 million miles logged in autonomous driving.
By pairing with Ford, the search engine giant avoids spending billions of dollars and several years that building its own automotive manufacturing expertise would require.
Earlier this year, Google co-founder Sergey Brin said the company was looking for manufacturing partners that would use the company’s self-driving system, which it believes could someday eliminate the roughly 33,000 annual deaths on US roads.
The venture would be legally separate from Ford, in part to shield the automaker from liability concerns. Questions of who will be responsible for any crashes involving self-driving cars have been seen as a major hurdle to putting them on the road. Volvo said it would accept responsibility for crashes in autonomous mode, a pledge followed by Google and Mercedes-Benz.
Google has been talking to several other automakers for some time about using its self-driving systems. Most major automakers and several auto parts suppliers are developing their own self-driving controls as well, with a few—Nissan, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz among them—promising advanced vehicles for customer sales by 2020.