The rumor that Ford and Google would announce a joint venture around autonomous driving at CES didn't pan out, but it's not dead altogether: a new report from The Wall Street Journal today reports that the companies are still considering such a partnership, citing "people familiar with the plans." The deal would see a new company created, in which Ford would develop software and systems for automotive components, while Google would focus on the master self-driving software. Obviously, such a partnership would see both companies focusing on their strengths, considering the size and experience of Google's self-driving fleet — and the fact that Ford... well, knows how to make cars.
WSJ's scoop comes in the context of a larger report on Executive Chairman Bill Ford's intense interest in pivoting his family's namesake company enough to avoid disruption by technology — and by a waning interest in car ownership, even as US car sales are hitting record highs. Services like Uber and the advent of fully autonomous driving make the concept of on-demand transportation far more practical, and as regulations give way to tech, that's generally seen as bad news for the legacy auto industry.
Does Google get more out of this than Ford?
But ironically, a partnership where Ford is making car components and Google is making the brains may not really pivot Ford much at all: there are far more car companies than there are tech firms with well-developed autonomous driving systems, making Ford the more replaceable partner of the two.
There's no sign that this partnership is going to happen this week at the Detroit Auto Show, but the schedule is rife with major auto shows in the coming months, including Geneva and New York. And if none of those happen, there's Google's I/O conference coming midyear.