Google has expanded its self-driving car team. A Reuters review of LinkedIn profiles revealed that the company has at least 170 employees working on the project.
The company has said that by the end of 2020 it plans to sell a mass-market self-driving car.
The majority of the self-driving car team consists of software and systems engineers, with some coming from other departments at the tech giant.
According to Reuters, over 40 people working on the self-driving project have experience in the automotive industry (with skills ranging from manufacturing to exterior design). Of those forty many having experience working for established carmakers such as Ford and General Motors.
Alphabet, Google’s parent company, hasn’t unveiled much information about its self-driving car team. The team could be larger than 170; some employees may not have published profiles on the business-oriented social networking service.
Over the past month Google posted almost 40 new job openings for its self-driving car team, with most of the listings requiring experience in manufacturing.
The team is being led by John Krafcik. Krafcik, who joined the company in September, was previously the head of Hyundai’s US operations and has plenty of experience in manufacturing and product development.
Will Google build a vehicle on its own or find a partner?
Paul Mascarenas, a former Ford executive who is president of FISITA, the International Federation of Engineering Societies, said that Google may be hiring manufacturing talent to help find and coordinate with a partner to build a vehicle.
Automotive industry experts told Reuters that Google is likely going to contract out manufacturing or license technology to established carmakers.
Licensing technology would create a similar business model Google has with its Android operating system.
What’s next for the self-driving car project?
Google tests prototype vehicles in Mountain View, California and Austin, Texas. The company recently expanded testing to Kirkland, Washington.
With no official word from Google about whether it will build its own cars the job listings only tell us that the company is increasing focus on hardware (how that will manifest itself is unsure).
The descriptions of some of the positions point to Google assembling its own manufacturing team, which would eliminate the need to rely on a partnership with an experienced automotive firm.
However, the company has said in the past that it does not plan on building vehicles itself, but is interested in forming partnerships with established and experienced auto-makers.
What is certain is that the Self-Driving project will be leaving Alphabet’s ‘X’ subsidiary (a semi-secret research and development facility) and become its own independent entity; but when that will happen is not clear yet.