Google, Major Automakers Clash on Future Self-Driving Cars

Jun 30, 2014 05:02 PM EDT | Jordan Ecarma

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Google and the Detroit Three may soon be bumping heads over self-driving cars.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based tech giant met with large automakers two years ago to discuss autonomous technology, but the companies disagreed on too many points to be able to collaborate on self-driving vehicles, Reuters reported.

Google and the carmakers might as well have been "talking a different language" while discussing autonomous car functions and estimated time to market, a source that was present at the meeting told Reuters.

The search company has likely invested tens of millions into self-driving cars and is currently developing the technology on its own; however, Google may eventually need to work with American automakers to put its autonomous offering on the road.

For their part, Detroit carmakers aren't sure if they should work with Google or exactly what effects the tech company will have on the auto industry.

"The auto companies are watching Google closely and trying to understand what its intentions and ambitions are," an industry source, who wanted to remain anonymous because of the sensitive nature of certain business relationships, told Reuters.

"Automakers are not sure if Google is their friend or their enemy, but they have a sneaking suspicion that whatever Google's going to do is going to cause upheaval in the industry."

One major difference between the two factions is whether or not a completely self-driving car can be launched right off the bat, since automakers favor a gradual approach where parking assistance and other features are integrated into vehicles over time.

According to some who were involved in the 2012 Google meetings, the search giant appears to think it knows better than long-time automakers when it comes to car technology.

"There was a certain amount of arrogance on the Google side, in the sense of 'We know what we're doing, you just help us,'" a major carmaker representative told Reuters.

"We'd say, 'Well you don't really know that much. And we're not going to put our name on a project like that because if something goes wrong, we have a lot more to lose.'"

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