Alphabet, the holding company for Google, is pushing forward with plans to spin-out its self-driving car project into a standalone business making and marketing autonomous vehicles, according to new job listings.
An advert posted last week for a marketing manager reveals that Alphabet – now the world’s most valuable technology company – intends to bring “self-driving cars to market” and “apply [a] new brand identity” after the project “graduates” from the company’s secretive X division, dedicated to moonshot projects such as airborne power generators and drones providing internet access.
Google computers qualify as drivers in automated cars, US government says
A job posting for an operations manager talks about building automated assembly lines and managing manufacturing partners, while another for a manufacturing process engineer involves “designing factory assembly stations … automating critical manufacturing processes and approving fixture designs used in the assembly of electronic modules for the self-driving car.”
“Obviously, they are planning to scale up,” says Mark Stevens, a former plant manager for General Motors and now a project manager at the Centre for Automotive Research. “But they are planning to stay with plastics, polymers or some sort of composite material.”
Many of the jobs listed require experience of working in Asia, which Stevens think suggests that the new company will outsource the manufacture of tooling to build the next generation of autonomous vehicles.
Self-driving cars will not be the first project to be spun out of Alphabet’s X division. Verily, focusing on life sciences, left Alphabet last year to develop diagnostic contact lenses, robotic surgery tools and clinical software.
But the departure of self-driving cars goes against Google’s earlier talk of partnering with established global car makers. In an interview with Reuters last year, Chris Urmson, the project’s technical lead said, “The biggest auto manufacturers [have] got a lot to offer. For us to jump in and say that we can do this better, that’s arrogant.”
Last summer, the Guardian revealed that Google had quietly set up its own car company, Google Auto LLC, to make a few hundred prototypes of self-driving cars. Those plans seem to now have advanced to the point where Alphabet envisages an increase in manufacturing.
A materials program manager will be “responsible for planning, procuring, warehousing, and conveying advanced materials across a global supply chain,” with projects that “will span time zones”.
Meanwhile, a marketing manager with experience of “large scale product launches” will be helping to “win the hearts and minds of local communities, opinion formers and governments”.
However, Stevens does not believe that the adverts indicate a shift to mass manufacture just yet. “Composites are typically not deployed on high volume vehicles,” he says, “And Google’s specifying of expertise in the accuracy and utilization of assets also implies lower volume production.”
It looks as though Google will not jump straight into selling passenger vehicles to consumers, a notoriously competitive and price-sensitive market.
More likely is that Google will start by offering robotic taxi services in cities that already welcome autonomous vehicles. Austin, Texas, would fit that bill. Google has been testing its self-driving cars there since July 2015, and the state has no special rules or regulations for driverless cars.
In January, Kara Kockelman, a professor of engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, published a paper describing a possible shared autonomous vehicle system in Austin. The system would use 400 fully driverless electric vehicles to take passengers to their destinations from 10 fixed recharging stations.
Kockelman calculated that such a system could provide trips at less than half the price of today’s Uber or cab services, and reduce congestion by displacing over 5,000 traditional vehicles. Kockelman received a $70,000 research award from Google in 2014 for research into autonomous vehicles, but says that her current paper is just a coincidence.
Google declined to comment on future plans for its self-driving cars.
reference source:the guardian today