The head of Google’s autonomous vehicle program said he wants to learn more about a precedent-setting auto industry consortium that will be announced in Detroit on Friday.
Organized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the group will be aimed at bringing new safety technology to market faster than would be possible through the traditional regulatory process while also pushing those breakthroughs on to as broad a consumer market as possible.
“I’d guess I’d want to see more and understand more,” John Krafcik, the CEO of Google’s self-driving car program said in response to a question from TheDetroitBureau.com. He was at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit to attend another announcement by NHTSA and the U.S. Department of Transportation.
DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx came to the Motor City to outline a series of steps the Obama Administration intends to take to foster the rapid development of autonomous vehicles, like those Google is now testing outside its Silicon Valley headquarters and a separate campus in Austin, Texas.
(Obama administration wants $4 billion for connected vehicles. For more, Click Here.)
The Friday announcement by the DOT and NHTSA will be just the latest in a series of steps by the government to hold out a carrot after using the stick of heavy fines to get the auto industry in line on safety.
The goal, several participants have told TheDetroitBureau.com, is to get everyone working on shared safety objectives. That may also mean sharing intellectual property rights. That is not entirely unheard of. Tesla Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. have all released some of their IP rights recently, though primarily to encourage development of electric vehicle technology.
For his part, Krafcik described the concept as “really interesting.”
(Click Here for details about Google’s search for partners, but lack of comment on Ford deal.)
The Google exec was particularly upbeat after Thursday’s announcement by Foxx, which primarily focused on autonomous vehicles.
A key element includes a request for $3.9 billion for the 2017 fiscal year to fund a decade-long test of the connected-car network that many experts see as critical to the development of autonomous vehicles. Foxx also announced his agency would take steps to make it easier to test autonomous technologies, in some cases tweaking rules to foster technologies that currently might not meet NHTSA guidelines.
For Google, one of the most significant announcements by the Transportation Secretary was the plan to develop model regulations for states to use to authorize testing of autonomous vehicles on their roads. Currently, only a handful of states, including Nevada, Michigan, Florida and California, have their own rules in place.
(NHTSA planning to make three “history-making” announcements. Click Here for this breaking story.)
During a speech earlier this week at a Detroit industry confab, Google’s Krafcik said he would like to expand the testing of the company’s “Google car” prototypes to get broader geographic experience and in a wider range of weather conditions. On Thursday, Krafcik said the DOT’s plan would be very helpful, describing the planned timetable as “a pretty quick turnaround.”