In 2012, a small team of Google Inc engineers and business staffers met with several of the world’s largest car makers, to discuss partnerships to build self-driving cars.
In one meeting, both sides were enthusiastic about the futuristic technology, yet it soon became clear that they would not be working together. The Internet search company and the automaker disagreed on almost every point, from car capabilities and time needed to get it to market to extent of collaboration.
It was as if the two were “talking a different language,” recalls one person who was present.
As Google expands beyond Web search and seeks a foothold in the automotive market, the company’s eagerness has begun to reek of arrogance to some in Detroit, who see danger as well as promise in Silicon Valley.
For now Google is moving forward on its own, building prototypes of fully autonomous vehicles that reject car makers’ plans to gradually enhance existing cars with self-driving features. But Google’s hopes of making autonomous cars a reality may eventually require working with Detroit, even the California company acknowledges. The alternative is to spend potentially billions of dollars to try to break into a century-old industry in which it has no experience.