Recently, Google announced a small partnership with Fiat Chrysler wherein they would produce 100 self-driving cars together, mostly just as a proof of concept. The partnership won't be going much further than that, according to a new report, and the cars produced will not be sold. If this leaves you wondering what the point is, you're not alone. Google's production and innovation in the self-driving field has been nothing short of stellar, leading the nascent industry by miles, but their plans for actually making a profit or even just getting their tech into drivers' hands are a bit nebulous at the moment, leading to serious doubts that they will be able to properly capitalize on their tech.
While Google has managed to create a fleet of self-driving car prototypes that work just fine, it's only one fleet. They have said themselves that mass-producing these is out of the question. It would indeed be an expensive undertaking, but may well be their best bet in this situation, given the alternatives. One method of monetizing and spreading their work that Google has been leaning heavily on is partnerships with automakers. While they have managed to at least get Ford to play ball, not everybody wants to have a tech company controlling the hardware they make, and such a deal would leave Google holding the proverbial bag, should any kind of hardware failure occur that could be attributed to or mess with the car's self-driving systems. On top of that, revenue springing from sales is likely to be minimal at best; one of the big draws of self-driving cars is that, if they're done right and the regulatory framework is keen on the idea, they won't have to be owned.
Google has also looked into going into the ride sharing business, producing just enough self-driving cars to share them among the population one hailing at a time, at a much lower rate than human-driven businesses. The issue with that is that the tech behind Google's self-driving cars is getting cheaper, and more and more coders are learning to create the kind of systems that could wind up being patched together into a working robot driver. This means that Google could be undercut on price or outdone in features, or a service like Uber could roll out self-driving cars, which they're already working on, and steamroll Google with their reputation in the industry. Just what Google may be planning with self-driving cars once they're complete is a bit unclear, but their partnership with Ford may be a starting point, if it goes well enough. Whatever happens, Google's self-driving technology will likely hit the ground first, giving them more time to command the market before having to deal with direct competition. Whether they'll be able to capitalize on this advantage is all down to them.