General Motors Ditched Google Over Data Control: Report

Illustration for article titled General Motors Ditched Google Over Data Control: Report

We learned this morning that Google plans to continue to develop its autonomous vehicle technologies with Fiat Chrysler, but only because initial talks with General Motors fell through—for the exact same reason BMW and Daimler backed out of a deal to help Apple with their its vehicle development. So what’s going on?


The recent interest in automotive and autonomous development by the tech industry’s giants like Apple and Google has many “traditional” automakers feeling threatened, but not Fiat Chyrsler CEO Sergio Marchionne, who has been a champion of the belief that his industry needs to welcome and work with the tech giants, not against them.

Well Marchionne may be alone in the automotive industry, as just last month we learned that both BMW and Daimler ditched negotiations with Apple to develop whatever the tech giant had planned for its possibly autonomous, possibly electric vehicle development code-named “Project Titan.”


The issue was over data control, which is almost guaranteed to become a big source of revenue in the form of consumer habits in the highly-connected cars of the future. The collective data of where you shop, where you eat, how much time you spend in the car, what you like to browse on the connected tablets and phones while in the car, and any other habits will all be owned by someone—someone looking to profit from advertisers and other interested parties.

It’s whether the tech company or the vehicle manufacturer has ownership that’s so contentious. BMW and Daimler apparently weren’t comfortable doing all the manufacturing dirty work for Apple without getting a slice of that information pie, so they bailed.

With today’s Bloomberg report uncovering failed negotiations between General Motors and Google over the exact same issue of data control reveals a looming power struggle between who controls the information streaming in from our highly connected cars of the future. Luckily for Google they managed to find a CEO we’ll call “forward thinking,” for now, in Sergio Marchionne.


Fiat Chrysler and Google’s first collaboration will be with 100 autonomous Chrysler Pacifica prototype minivans with the first hitting roads by the end of this year. Where it goes from there for the new pair is anyone’s guess, but Google will likely be the one rolling in data collection.


Tip of the hat to Tweetermeyer

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Strange as it sounds, I think FCA is right here. Controlling that data is only useful if you’re going to build a good solution on your own, and given the state of car software I wouldn’t bet on that from most companies, especially those who feel threatened by the tech. If Google/Apple/Tesla/Volvo/whoever gets automation working “well enough” and you don’t have a functional competitor, you’re going to be reduced to a niche player very quickly (or stuck licensing from a competitor at exorbitant rates).