General Motors may 'kick the tires' on Google's self-driving car

Automaker says it'd be open to talking to Google about teaming up on driverless-car tech.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read

In December, Google showed off the first fully functional prototype of its self-driving car. Google

General Motors says it would consider the possibility of partnering with Google to build self-driving cars, according to the automaker's chief technology officer.

Speaking to Reuters in an interview published Monday, CTO Jon Lauckner says his company would "certainly be open to having a discussion" with Google about partnering to build a self-driving car.

"You have to figure out how would something like that actually work," Lauckner told Reuters. "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," he added.

Google has been logging thousands of miles of road time on its driverless car since it revealed in 2010 it was working on the technology. Over the past several years, the Internet giant has unveiled incremental improvements. In December, Google showed off its first complete working prototype. (That compares with a previous version that didn't have a steering wheel or real headlights.) The technology uses a series of sensors to detect objects, analyze what they are and respond accordingly.

In a statement to The Wall Street Journal last month, Chris Urmson, the head of Google's autonomous vehicle project, said that the prototype relies on 64 lasers that scan across 360 degrees, a camera and GPS map data to generate a map of its surroundings and drive safely. Google uses software and algorithms to make the car react to predictable and unpredictable scenarios.

That GM is at least considering working with Google on a self-driving car is good news for the search giant. Last month, Urmson told the Journal that Google does not " particularly want to become a car maker," adding that his company was in talks with automakers.

Urmson is scheduled to speak Wednesday at the Automotive World News Congress in Detroit, where he could announce plans for partnering with automakers, according to Reuters.

Google has been flirting with car partnerships for at least the past couple of years. In 2013, Elon Musk, founder and CEO of electric-car maker Tesla, said he held " some technical discussions with Google." However, he went on to say that it was unlikely he would ink a deal with Google because the company's laser technology is too expensive. Musk also said that he would likely build his own autopilot system.

At the Consumer Electronics Show last week, Mercedes-Benz showed off its own self-driving concept car, called the F 015, that looks more like a living room inside than an actual vehicle. That car does not rely on Google's auto-driving technology.

Still, Google has formed relationships in the car industry, announcing last year that it had inked deals with Honda, Audi and GM to deliver cars that include its Android operating system.

Whatever technology companies use, it appears self-driving cars will be hitting roadways in increasing numbers in the coming years. The trouble for all of the players is getting the go-ahead to put autonomous cars on the road. As of this writing, in the US just a handful of states allow self-driving cars, including Florida and California.

Neither Google nor GM immediately responded to a request for comment.