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February 12, 2016updated 04 Sep 2016 10:18pm

Google seeks driverless talent as Google X jobs advertised

News: While hiring frenzy starts, a blind man has become the first passenger to trial the company’s self-driving pods.

By Joao Lima

Google is keeping itself busy with its driverless car project, with the company now looking for new people to join its R&D team.

The Alphabet’s arm has last week posted 36 job advertisements related to its self-driving car project being developed by the Google X team, Google’s research branch.

The listed jobs including marking managers, operation managers, engineers for hardware, software and manufacturing, and other roles related to the development of its driverless car and human resources.

One of the adverts for a marketing manager suggests the company could be considering the creation of a serious standalone business unit for cars.

The job, based in Mountain View, California, US, says that the successful candidate will "help bring self-driving cars to market by designing and executing programs that help win the hearts and minds of local communities, opinion formers and governments".

Another hint into the possibility of the company founding its own car manufacturing brand is given by Google when it says that the marketing manager "will be responsible for applying new brand identity across all touchpoints".

Google concludes the ad saying: "The role (…) will initially be part of the X central marketing team, and later move into the self-driving car team after graduating from X."

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The company started its driverless car project in 2010, and in 2011 founded Google Auto LLC which is headed by Chris Urmson, director for self-driving cars at Google. In 2014, Californian authorities licensed the company as a carmaker.

Google has however previously denied that it intends to become a mass car manufacturer. In December 2015, rumours emerged that Google was in talks with Ford to build the next generation of automated cars.

The company has not confirmed talks with Ford, however, but the company has admitted to conversations with other auto manufacturers.

Urmson told Reuters last year: "We would be remiss not to talk to (…) the biggest auto manufacturers. They have got a lot to offer. For us to jump in and say that we can do this better, that’s arrogant."

Yet, another job advertisement posted by the company looking for an operations manager mentions that the role includes "planning capacity, budgeting and overall factory readiness for operations related to PCBA [Printed Circuit Board Assembly] and final assembly of the self-driving car electronic modules" as well as "providing on-site management of manufacturing partners to manage assembly line bring-up including automation, fixtures and workstations".

Last month, John Krafcik, Google’s self-driving car project president, said that this year he wants to see partnerships with established carmakers and suppliers in place to accelerate the project.

Google is also looking for a head of real estate and workplace services, which could mean the company is planning to expand the team by bulking up its human resources department for driverless cars.

Speaking to CBR, Dr. Kevin Curran, senior member of the IEEE, said: "I would not expect Google to start building a car. Their vision is to control our online ecosystem as we surf the Web. This allows them to continue resting on their all powerful ad sales.

"The driverless concept is in some ways allowing them to experiment with artificial intelligence and machine learning. Building a car is difficult from scratch with no history. Ask Tesla. For now, I think they simply wish to expand a promising research department."

Google’s self-driving project has over the last weeks gained traction on different fronts. The company has also conducted its first blind passenger test ride this week.

Steve Mahan, a blind man from California and the CEO of Santa Clara Valley Blind Centre, ‘took on the wheel’ and let the car drive him around town, according to ABC News.

Blind people are still unable to obtain a driving license, however, driverless cars have the capability to allow them to own a vehicle.

Mahan said: "[Being in the car] is like riding with a fabulous driver. Anybody who spends five minutes out in that traffic will realise that the danger are the humans. Personally I cannot wait for the robots to start driving."

Alphabet, which is now the world’s most valuable tech company, has this week also seen the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) making its first major step to recognise driverless cars’ software as a legal driver, which could also mean people like Mahan could soon be able to use driverless cars as a driver is no longer required to be in the car.

The governmental organisation is responsible for setting the rules and regulations on which American roads are managed.

In a lengthy letter to Urmson, the NHTSA said: "If no human occupant of the vehicle can actually drive the vehicle, it is more reasonable to identify the driver as whatever (as opposed to whoever) is doing the driving.

"In this instance, an item of motor vehicle equipment, the Self-Driving System, is actually driving the vehicle."

In the document, it also says that the NHTSA will consider initiating rulemaking to address whether the definition of driver should be updated in response to changing circumstances.

The letter was sent weeks after President Barack Obama unveiled plans to invest up to $4 billion in the development of driverless cars technology and speed up roll outs across the country.

The recognition of Google’s driverless cars as a driver was also made a few days after the company was granted permission to expand its test drives to Kirkland, in Washington.

So far, Google has tested its cars in California and Texas, where over one million miles have been self-driven.

Also this week, it has emerged that the UK could be the first country to have Google’s driverless cars outside the US on its roads in a government backed idea.

Deputy Mayor for Transport Isabel Dedring said discussions were at an early stage but "we would be keen for trials to happen" in London.

Alexandre Pelletier, head of innovation at Tata Communications, said: "For self-driving cars to become truly autonomous, Google and others doing their own tests, must also look at the connectivity which this smart technology will rely on.

"There needs to be a deeper understanding of the pressures that the data traffic generated by hundreds, thousands and ultimately tens of thousands of self-driving cars will put on network infrastructures around the world.

"Fixing software bugs is just the start – whether the autonomous vehicles revolution happens in our lifetime will depend on the availability of ubiquitous, intelligent and highly robust networks, which will underpin the safety and reliability of self-driving cars."


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