DEARBORN, Michigan — Ford may build Google's next-generation self-driving cars, a move that would create a partnership between the tech giant and a traditional mass-market automaker, according to a new report.
Yahoo Autos reported on the prospective hook-up, quoting sources who said the deal would set up a joint venture that would be separate from Ford and shield the automaker from any legal liability. It would also in theory aid Ford's self-driving vehicle software development and give Google access to more than a century of automotive manufacturing experience. According to Yahoo, the deal would be non-exclusive, meaning Google could provide its self-driving car technology to other automakers.
A formal announcement on the deal may come in early January at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show.
"We have been and will continue working with many companies and discussing a variety of subjects related to our Ford Smart Mobility plan," wrote Ford spokesman Alan Hall in response to a query from Edmunds on Tuesday. "We keep these discussions private for obvious competitive reasons, and we do not comment on speculation."
The Google press team told Edmunds: "We don't comment on rumor or speculation."
Ford announced the next phase of its Smart Mobility plan in June, saying it plans "to deliver the next level in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience and big data."
The Dearborn automaker said it is focusing on two key areas of mobility: flexible use and ownership and multimodal urban travel solutions.
"We now are moving from experimentation to implementation," said Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO, in a statement.
Former Ford CEO Alan Mulally is a member of Google's board of directors, an appointment that heightens the link between the two companies.
Ford will hold a press conference at the 2016 CES on January 5. The show's official vehicle will be the
2017 Ford GT.
Edmunds says: This is one of the most practical partnerships imaginable between the Motor City and Silicon Valley as we enter the next phase of the auto industry.