Where’s the Ford-Google JV?
I realize that the headline sounds like a complete joke, but hear me out. Google is making major investments in driverless cars. I hear about these every day, because a number of my coworkers commute to work on 280, where the Google cars are a familiar presence. Ford, on the other hand, is making some major investments in electric vehicles. The two trends most likely to affect driving in the next 20 years? Electrification and going driverless. So…why not make a deal?
Each side has some things going for it. Google has the technology, but can’t exactly turn itself into an automaker overnight. It is missing the talent in design & mechanical engineering, the supply chain, the distribution network…basically everything. Only Ford or GM can supply a top-tier platform across the US, and Ford makes less-bad entry-to-mid-market cars than GM (disclosure: I own Ford stock, for this among other reasons). They also have a luxury platform (Lincoln) that is dead in the water and is undergoing a total top-to-bottom overhaul in an attempt to play up the appeal to tech-savvy Gen X-ers and Milennials. Using it as the launch platform for Google Go* would make one hell of a splash.
Furthermore, electrification and driverless technology are natural complements. The big issue with electric vehicles are range concerns. But if your car can drive off to charge up while you’re at work or eating at a restaurant, range becomes less of a constraining factor in daily short-haul driving. The real thing that would make this a coherent transportation system is a network of charging locations. If only there was some sort of horrifically tarnished oil company that would jump at the chance to establish a more environmentally friendly and PR-worthy business line.
*: I just made this up.