April 28, 2012 - - If you haven’t heard by now, Google plans to produce self-driving car technology and hopes to partner with folks in Detroit. Google announced in October that its engineers are working on developing technology for cars that can drive themselves.

Anthony Levandowski, head of Google's self-driving car project, told an audience at the Society of Automotive Engineers conference this week that the company is looking for partners to help it get autonomous cars on the road within the next decade, according to a report  from the Wall Street Journal.

"We're talking to every car company to see what their level of excitement is," Levandowski said.

While noting that the company still needs to do "millions of miles" of testing, he said the technology could be ready well before the end of 2012. "If not, shame on us as engineers," he added. A Google spokesman told Computerworld Thursday that the company is reaching out to many auto companies but keeping its options open.

"We're talking with lots of auto companies about a variety of topics, but we haven't decided how we may make our technology available to consumers," he said. "As Anthony Levandowski said yesterday in Detroit, 'all options are open.' "

Ever since Google first noted in the fall of 2010 that engineers at the search giant were trying to create an autonomous vehicle that could be widely sold, industry analysts have wondered how a self-driving car would fit into the Internet company's business strategy.

It could be technology for technology's sake, noted Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research. "It's a very long shot for ultimate business relevance," he said. "But there's no reason an investor with lots of cash, which is what Google is, shouldn't have some long shots in its portfolio."

A visionary might look ahead 10 years and imagine people driven around by their cars, while they spend their time searching Google for nearby Thai restaurants or gas stations, instead of driving on busy highways, he said.

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