Google to disrupt car industry but not as car maker, says Merc chief

Published: 09 February 2015

► Merc chief dismisses threat of Google
► Google 'doesn't want to be car maker'
► Is search giant following Android IP path?

The car industry is being shaken up by the arrival of new Silicon Valley upstarts - but the boss of Mercedes-Benz doesn’t see the likes of Google as rival high-volume car makers.

Dieter Zetsche, the chief executive of Daimler told Automotive News Europe that the search giant was more interested in how people spend time in their cars than actually becoming a major vehicle manufacturer.

Why Google is developing its own autonomous car

Zetsche told analysts that Google was looking at what people do at home and work, as well as in their cars, to understand better their needs.

‘Google and the likes want to get involved, [but] I don't think in the first place to build vehicles,’ Zetsche said. ‘We have to understand that, and then to find our roles, to which extent they are complementary, to which extent we become dependent, to which extent we are competitors.’

The Google driverless car

The Mountain View search giant showed its first prototype for an autonomous car in 2014 - the culmination of several years of development using rival production cars such as the Toyota Prius and Lexus hybrids.

However, the signs are that the Google car wouldn’t be ready for production until the end of the decade, and even then Google isn’t interested in becoming a volume manufacturer. Instead, it is likely to farm out construction to a third party. It’s a similar path to that followed by its Android smartphone operating system, where it develops the software and IP and lets others piggyback its efforts.

Chairman Eric Schmidt (right in photo above) is working closely with US transportation secretary Anthony Foxx (left) to persuade them that driverless cars will be safe enough to legislate for; earlier this month they discussed the Beyond Traffic report, a government study looking at transport trends over the next three decades.

Would you consider an autonomous car by Google? Let us know in the comments below.

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet