Google’s self-driving car project has been very much in the public eye ever since the company unveiled it many years ago. More recently, the Google-designed autonomous pod made for an iconic car, albeit in its very limited run. But despite all of this evidence Google says it doesn’t actually want to build a self-driving car, it wants to build the driver behind it.
Dmitri Dolgov, Google’s head of self-driving technology explained recently that the way the company is looking at it, the driver should be independent of the car. In other words, despite Google building its own autonomous vehicle, the company’s aim is to have software that can then be transferred to any vehicle. Talking to Recode Dolgov said:
It doesn’t matter. We’re building a driver. We’ve been on Prius, Lexus; we have our own prototype, and we’re now working with Fiat Chryslers on a new platform. As far as the software is concerned, it’s the same thing. It’s like you getting into another car. You get a rental — maybe it’s a little bit bigger, and it doesn’t quite handle the same way as your own car — it takes you time to get used to, but the core tasks transfer.
Though a bit surprising given its track record on the project, this approach makes a lot more sense than Google simply trying to build its own line of cars. After all, the company’s expertise relies in scalable systems, so getting the software right is much more important than the hardware it will be used on.
Google’s cars rely very much on cloud data, a myriad of sensors, mapping information and vehicle-to-vehicle communication. If the company manages to create a package than can be easily adapted to any car it may get a leg over rivals like Tesla.
In some ways it’s the same approach as Android versus iOS. Apple’s system is closed, and the company handles both hardware and software. Meanwhile, Android is a bit more open and designed to be installed on a huge base of devices that meet some minimum specs. Systems like Android usually win due to scale, though in this particular case, an autonomous driver software might also win because of the huge amount of extra data it’s getting from the roads.