updated 09:21 am EDT, Thu May 15, 2014
Initiative at least six years away for mass-market, many details unknown
Google has started discussions with international auto manufacturers, trying to figure out how to bring its self-driving cars to the public. Project director Chris Urmson said at an event highlighting the technology earlier this week that the company is "thinking now about how to bring this car to market." The project is currently being led by Google engineer Sebastian Thrun, former director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and co-inventor of Google Street View.
The team developing the system consists of 15 engineers working for Google, including Chris Urmson, Mike Montemerlo, and Anthony Levandowski -- who had all worked on the DARPA Grand and Urban Challenges, a competition for autonomous vehicles. Last month, Google claimed that its test vehicles had crossed 700,000 autonomous miles driven.
Urmson said that the company hasn't decided if it should make just the operating system for the auto navigation, or if it should make its own car. He did note that the Google cars currently on the road are adorned with expensive technology to the tune of around $150,000, but the price would fall as the components are manufactured in higher volume. "Our vehicles are expensive today, but none of the components are inherently expensive," said Urmson of the potential vehicle cost, stopping short of naming potential partners or a price target.