Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Facebook Is Getting Into the Car Game. Sort of

  • Let’s work together, Sandberg tells carmakers at auto show
  • Artificial intelligence, digitization among cooperation areas

Facebook Inc.’s Sheryl Sandberg vowed to deepen cooperation with the likes of Daimler AG and Volkswagen AG and said the American technology giant is seeking closer ties to the automobile industry.

Speaking at the Frankfurt car show, Facebook’s chief operating officer said Thursday she’s issuing an invitation to work with automakers on topics including artificial intelligence and bringing the industry up to speed on digital tools.

“We come with very good news -- we’re the only company in Silicon Valley that’s not building a car,” Sandberg said. She described Facebook as a “teenager” and told carmakers, “We have a lot to learn from you. We don’t have your history, we don’t have your staying power, even though we aspire to make it to 100 years.”

Lines have blurred between the car and technology industries as vehicles get smarter, packing in dozens of chips and software to assist drivers with everything from respecting the speed limit to parking. Autonomous driving is expected to be the next frontier, prompting companies from Apple Inc. to Samsung Electronics Co. to strike deals and invest billions of dollars into their own robot-car projects.

Automakers including BMW AG and Toyota Motor Corp. are experimenting with autonomous driving as well, and some are discussing a common platform. The Frankfurt car show has shown that the industry may have more immediate priorities though, like electric cars and using technology to add premium features to human-driven vehicles.

Sandberg said it’s “an honor for us to invest and partner in Germany,” where Facebook is joining the Munich-based Mobility Hub, an innovation initiative supported by the likes of Daimler, BMW and SAP SE. Facebook will sponsor desks, events and training with some of its engineers, working on anything from AI to product development.

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