Alphabet's self-driving car may keep the steering wheel after all

Ditching the headphone jack is easy; the steering wheel, not so much

Google's parent company does not yet have the courage to build a car with no steering wheel or pedals, preferring to put its self-driving technology into existing cars from traditional auto manufacturers.

Thats the conclusion of news site The Information in a report published Monday citing people close to Alphabet's autonomous vehicle project.

The technology is moving closer to market, and the company no longer considers it a "moonshot," the head of its "X" research lab Astro Teller told The Wall Street Journal in October.

It's over a year since it appointed former head of Hyundai U.S. John Krafcik to oversee its autonomous driving activities, which it began accounting for as a separate business on Jan. 1.

But now, The Information said, the company is moving away from plans to build and sell cars itself, preferring to partner with existing auto manufacturers to put its technology in their cars alongside traditional driver controls.

Apple's secretive self-driving car efforts have followed a similar wavering course between full-on construction and add-on smarts. In October reports emerged that it was scaling back its plans for a car of its own, instead looking to develop its own autonomous driving system and partner with manufacturers to get it on the road.

Auto manufacturers including Audi, Volvo and Tesla are working on self-driving cars of their own, but there are other companies -- besides Google and Apple -- that want a share of that market. Auto equipment maker Delphi has a self-driving car platform on the road, and even Intel is investing in the market.

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Peter Sayer

IDG News Service
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