Hyundai in talks with Google on developing self-driving cars

Carmakers are increasingly seeking help from Silicon Valley and vice versa

Hyundai President Jeong Jin Haeng said this week his company is talking to Alphabet's Google unit about helping it develop a self-driving car.

The world's fifth largest automaker hopes to enter into a symbiotic relationship, where it will bring its manufacturing prowess to Google and the Silicon Valley giant will help the automaker's autonomous technology development.

"Hyundai is lagging behind the competition to develop autonomous vehicles," Ko Tae Bong, senior auto analyst at Hi Investment & Securities Co, told Bloomberg News. "It's not a choice but a critical prerequisite for Hyundai to cooperate with IT companies, such as Google, to survive in the near future."

google self driving car lexus 100593619 orig Google

Google's self-driving Lexus pilot project.

At a news conference with Korea's Minister of Trade on Wednesday, Haeng said that "because Google is not too familiar with vehicles" his company can help with the execution of Google's self-driving vehicle, which is one of the most advanced in the market.

The two companies are already connected in that Google's self-driving vehicle project is being led by John Krafcik, the former CEO of Hyundai Motor America; Krafcik left Hyundai in 2013.

Hyundai also has been among the most aggressive automakers adopting Alphabet's Android Auto and Apple's CarPlay, which allow the iPhone and Android smartphones to connect wirelessly to car infotainment systems.

Android Auto smartphone interface Hyundai

Hyundai has been the most aggressive carmaker in deploying Google's Android Auto smartphone interface.

This is not the first time Google has sought expertise from an automaker.

In May, Google announced it was buying 100 plug-in hybrid minivans from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) to expand its autonomous technology.

"This collaboration with [FCA] is the first time we've worked directly with an automaker to create our vehicles," Google said in a blog at the time. "FCA will design the minivans so it's easy for us to install our self-driving systems, including the computers that hold our self-driving software, and the sensors that enable our software to see what's on the road around the vehicle."

Google's self-driving vehicle division has also joined forces with major carmakers and ride-sharing services to form a coalition to lobby lawmakers and regulators for faster adoption of self-driving car technology.

In all, five companies -- Alphabet, Ford, Lyft, Volvo and Uber -- formed the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets coalition. Its mission: to spur the federal government to usurp a "patchwork" of state driving laws that could hinder autonomous vehicle acceptance.

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Lucas Mearian

Computerworld (US)
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