On Google’s Q2 earnings call in July, CEO Larry Page tried to play down the company’s project to build self-driving cars, saying “we’re not betting the farm on this stuff.”Maybe not, but the self-driving cars are definitely more than an experimental project.
According to a person with direct knowledge of the project, Google has more than 50 people working on the team, and has begun talking to major car companies about cooperating on the technology and producing the actual vehicles.
By way of comparison, the Android team had about 100 people on it when the first Android phone shipped in 2008.
This person says that the team is working on three areas in parallel:
- Design and production of the vehicles, which is still in an early stage.
- Business model, including how they might tie in with other Google businesses. (Futurist Paul Saffo recently hypothesized that the might be run as an on-demand car service like Uber, combined with cameras to take Street View pictures.)
- Public policy, which involves working with local and state governments to get them to approve self-driving cars. In June, Nevada became the first state to pass a law allowing “autonomous vehicles” on its roads, and our source says that Google is using Nevada and the Mojave Desert in California as a test ground.
The project is being overseen by Sergey Brin, who formally took charge of secret projects at Google after Larry Page took over as CEO earlier this year.