Advertising behemoth Google is continuing to show all the signs of a massive push into self-driving vehicles. The latest indication of just how large this project has become, the company has announced that it hired former Hyundai CEO John Krafcik to lead the well-known self-driving car project. Krafcik has confirmed his involvement in the project.
Krafcik wrote on his Twitter account, “This is a great opportunity to help Google develop the enormous potential of self-driving cars. I can’t wait to get started. "Self-driving cars could save thousands of lives, give people greater mobility and free us from things we find frustrating about driving today.”
Google’s self-driving car project specialist Chris Urmson will retain his current position, and Krafcik will serve as his boss.
Krafcik was the CEO of Hyundai from 2008 to 2013. Currently, he is the president of Truecar Incorporated. Krafcik is a 30 year veteran of the motor industry.
By hiring Krafcik, Google is holding nothing back into making business out of this exciting upcoming technology.
Google first presented their concept for its very own driverless vehicle in May of 2014. The concept had no steering wheel or pedals. By December of last year, Google managed to produce a fully functioning prototype. They started testing the car in the San Francisco area earlier this year.
The company has now progressed to making over 100 test vehicles with plans to make hundreds more by the end of next year. The ramp up in production appears related to the company eyeing mass production of the vehicles, putting it in direct competition with global automakers.
Google has stated that it expects these vehicles to be available for purchase starting in 2020.
Self-Driving cars are currently permitted in Nevada, Florida, Michigan, Washington, D.C., and California. In 2012, the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles issued its first permit for an autonomous car to a Toyota Prius that had been modified with Google’s experimental self-driving technology.
So far, Google has managed to equip several different types of cars with its technology in addition to the custom made prototypes it has developed. These include Toyota Prius, Audi TT, and Lexus RX450h. It remains unclear whether these were just convenient test beds for its technology or whether the company is looking to offer self driving conversion kits in addition to its own brand of vehicle.
Google’s prototypes have been assembled by Roush Enterprises, and utilize equipment from Bosch, ZF Lenksysteme, LG, and Continental.
Google has been road testing various driverless vehicles on public roads since 2012.
Last June, the company announced that their driverless vehicles had traveled a total of over 1 million miles. According to the company, this is the equivalent of roughly 75 years of typical adult driving in the United States. So far, Google self-driving cars have been involved in 14 minor traffic incidents, though Google states that none of these accidents were the result of the vehicle malfunctioning.
While Google’s precise game plan remains unclear, all signs points to a major push into the area of self driving cars. By hiring a former CEO of a global automaker, Google is showing that its plans are of a truly game-changing nature.