Google, Fiat Chrysler Join Forces to Build Self-Driving Minivans

Posted by at 10:35 am on May 4, 2016

Pacifica

Google will collaborate with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to put its self-driving car technology into 100 Pacifica minivans.

The vehicles will be used to turbocharge Google’s seven-year-old autonomous car program. For Fiat Chrysler, the agreement provides a technological crash course in what it takes to transform a standard vehicle into an autonomous one.

Google and other tech companies “are not my enemy, these are people who will help us shape the next phase of the automotive industry,” Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said by phone. Fiat shares (FCAU) gained 3% to $8.20 after news on the deal late Tuesday.

The partnership represents the first time Google’s team will be sharing with a major automaker information on how to integrate some of its secretive self-driving-car technology. Its existing fleet consists of a few dozen Lexus SUVs modified by Google staffers as well as a few two-person prototypes built in-house.

The two companies don’t as yet have a plan to put the self-driving technology into new Chrysler vehicles.

John Krafcik, head of Google’s car project, said his company liked the “nimble and focused” nature of Fiat Chrysler’s engineering team, as well as “the fact that they’re totally aligned with what we need to do at this stage, which is build more vehicles and get more testing miles under our belt.”

Fiat’s Marchionne has been vocal about the need for car manufacturers to embrace partnerships in order to survive the ongoing pivot in the transportation space. The company has achieved some sales success after exiting bankruptcy. But in the car technology research race, seen as the next big differentiator for automakers, rivals Ford, Audi, and BMW have made quick progress with driver-assist technology while Fiat Chrysler has kept a lower profile.

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