In a move that marks a major step in the inexorable march towards making self-driving cars a reality, Google have announced what they are calling a “first of its kind” partnership with car manufacturer Fiat Chrysler.
The partnership, which was announced Tuesday, will see Google’s self-driving technology integrated into a Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivan, which will more than double the testing fleet of self-driving vehicles that Google operates.
Tech companies such as Google, Uber and Apple, as well as chip-maker Nvidia, have all been working toward autonomous vehicle technology in competition with both each other and car manufacturers. BMW, Audi, Ford, General Motors and Mercedes-Benz are all among more than a dozen automotive outfits working on the technology.
But Google’s alliance with Fiat Chrysler marks the first time two companies have come together from opposite sides of what is often a cultural, as well as technological, gulf – with the possible exception of Elon Musk’s Tesla, which can be seen as a sort of hybrid.
Google and Fiat Chrysler will merge their engineering teams at a facility in southern Michigan, according to a press release. Engineering responsibility will be shared between the two companies in the construction of 100 specially-designed Pacifica minivans which will be fitted with Google’s automation equipment.
“FCA has a nimble and experienced engineering team and the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan is well-suited for Google’s self-driving technology,” John Krafcik, the CEO of Google’s self-driving car project, said in a press release. “The opportunity to work closely with FCA engineers will accelerate our efforts to develop a fully self-driving car that will make our roads safer and bring everyday destinations within reach for those who cannot drive.”
Sergio Marchionne, chief executive officer of Fiat Chrysler, also said in a press release that “the experience both companies gain will be fundamental to delivering automotive technology solutions that ultimately have far-reaching consumer benefits”.