Pod-like prototypes for testing are being developed and assembled at a Roush facility and will undergo testing at Google facilities in California in the spring – Google does not want to do testing in the snow.
The goal is to have driverless cars available on the market within five years, said Chris Urmson, director of Self-Driving Cars for Google.
The Wednesday announcement underscores Detroit's growing place in the national consciousness as a home for tech startups and innovation. It also punctuates the increasing high-tech nature of the automobile industry, with Google, a multibillion dollar Internet search engine company, now in the business of designing cars.
Urmson does not expect regulations to be a barrier. Driverless cars are allowed by law in many states including Nevada, Florida, D.C., California and Michigan. Georgia decided it does not need to change its laws to allow autonomous driving, and Urmson thinks most states will reach the same conclusion.
"If you want to do something auto, it's out here," said Urmson, from Vancouver who studied robotics and drives a bike to work.
"To say Silicon Valley is the only place where innovation happens is wrong," said Urmson. "It is not a crusty Detroit/shiny Silicon Valley. Anyone who thinks that is crazy."
Google equipped conventional cars for testing about six years ago before deciding to make its own fleet for evaluation. The internet company announced in May it will build its own test fleet from the ground up.
The Roush facility in Livonia is now making a more refined version of the first car announced last May, Urmson said in an interview ahead of a speech at the World Congress automotive conference in Detroit. "We've gone through a couple more generations," he said. The handful of evaluation models even have real headlights now, he said. Detroit Free Press