Google, Fiat ink deal to make 100 self-driving minivans – USA TODAY

A self-driving Lexus SUV owned by Google’s moms and dad company Alphabet struck a bus February 14 while it was testing on the streets of Mountain View, Calif. Wochit

SAN FRANCISCO – Google will certainly collaborate along with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to put its self-driving automobile technology in to 100 Pacifica minivans, the CEOs of the two companies told USA TODAY.

The vehicles will certainly be used to turbocharge Google’s seven-year-old autonomous automobile program. For Fiat Chrysler, the agreement provides a technological crash road in just what it requires to transform a standard car in to an autonomous one.

Google and various other tech companies “are not my enemy, these are people that will certainly suggestions 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 USA TODAY reported on the deal late Tuesday.

The partnership represents the initial time Google’s group will certainly be sharing along with a significant automaker short article on exactly how to integrate a few of its secretive self-driving-car technology. Its existing fleet features a few dozen Lexus SUVs modified by Google staffers also as a few two-person prototypes built in-house.

Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne says tech companies

Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne says tech companies such as brand-new partner Google are allies in the ongoing reformation of the automotive industry. (Photo: AJ Mast, AP)

The two companies don’t as yet have actually a strategy to put the self-driving technology in to brand-new Chrysler vehicles.

John Krafcik, head of Google’s automobile project, said his company liked the “nimble and focused” nature of Fiat Chrysler’s engineering team, also as “the honest truth that they’re totally aligned along with just what we have to do at this stage, which is build much more vehicles and Get hold of much more testing miles under our belt.”

Fiat’s Marchionne has actually been vocal concerning the necessity for automobile manufacturers to embrace partnerships in order to survive the ongoing pivot in the transportation space. The company has actually attained some sales victory after exiting bankruptcy. However in the automobile technology research race, seen as the next big differentiator for automakers, rivals Ford, Audi, and BMW have actually gained quick progress along with driver-aid technology while Fiat Chrysler has actually kept a reduced profile.

For Google, the deal means it will have the ability to promptly expand its self-driving automobile testing routine since it will certainly not have actually to modify 100 minivans from scratch. Instead, it will certainly take delivery of a fleet of 2017 Pacificas that have been tweaked to accommodate the array of on-board radar, laser-radar and cameras that enable cars to drive themselves.

The Alphabet-owned Google automobile project currently examinations in Mountain View, Calif., Phoenix, Austin and Kirkland, Wash., and would certainly be in placement to include brand-new cities as quickly as the modified Pacificas finish testing at Google’s California test facility later this year. So far, Google cars have actually logged 1.5 million miles along with only one at-fault accident.

Real-globe testing is considered integral to the two winning over nervous consumers and obtaining lawmakers to fast-monitor guidelines to integrate such tech in to society.

“That will certainly be a fantastic knowing opportunity for us and for FCA,” says Krafcik, a former head of Hyundai North America that was brought on last year to suggestions coordinate simply such liaisons. Google execs have actually long said they have actually no interest in building their own self-driving cars.

“This is all of in service of a crucial point, which is that it will certainly much more compared to double our fleet of cars and that means much more testing miles and much more opportunities for people to become familiar along with their real-globe capabilities,” he says.

Krafcik adds that The 2 companies have actually been talking “for concerning a year.” He would certainly not comment on a rumored deal along with Ford that surfaced in January, However noted that while “we’re excited FCA will certainly be the initial we integrate with, we will certainly be functioning along with lots of various partners going forward.”

Fiat 500, which looks not unlike Google's self-driving

Fiat 500, which looks not unlike Google’s self-driving prototype. (Photo: Damian Dovarganes, AP)

Google's self-built, self-driving two-person prototype,

Google’s self-built, self-driving two-person prototype, which looks not unlike a Fiat 500. (Photo: Tony Avelar, AP)

Marchionne has actually been adamant that automakers need to concentrate on economies of scale, which could mean consolidating or forging brand-new partnerships in strategic areas.

“This announcement is a recognition of the honest truth we found a sharing of the minds along with Google, However we cannot preclude a person else coming in (to help),” said Marchionne.

The auto business has actually been highly vertical, where carmakers manufactured every little thing from the seats to the engines, he noted. “However this next phase will certainly disintermediate a great deal of those processes. And the only method to survive this is to be nimble and receptive enough to this technology coming in,” he said.

Among U.S. automakers, Chrysler is especially accustomed to joining forces along with various other companies in an effort to continue to be in the game.

In 1998, Daimler and Chrysler joined forces, However the so-called union of equals promptly saw the German automaker take charge prior to ultimately selling Chrysler to Cerberus Capital Management in 2007.

The company went through bankruptcy in 2009, and got a bailout from the federal government. That’s as soon as Italy’s Fiat entered the picture; in 2014, Fiat completed its purchase of the company.

On Tuesday, Fiat Chrysler announced a 6% jump in sales over the exact same month a year ago, based largely on deep discounting currently being offered on a lot of models. Driving its sales are trucks and Jeep SUVs, while traditional cars continue to be soft.

Neither Marchionne nor Krafcik would certainly discuss financial details of their tech agreement. The job on the Pacificas will certainly be carried out by Fiat Chrysler and Google engineers in facilities in the two Michigan and California.

Google’s podlike self-driving prototype looks remarkably similar to Fiat’s iconic 500. However, Krafcik says his company was eager to move its technology aboard a minivan due to its design. Chrysler was the initial automaker to produce the U.S. minivan market as soon as in 1983 it rolled out its Town & Country, Caravan and Voyager products.

“It’s a cool car for us,” says Krafcik. “It’s much more spacious and much more flexible, and it being the only hybrid minivan in U.S. is pretty interesting for us, the two since as a company we are environmentally and due to the car’s robust electrical architecture which is crucial for self-driving vehicles.”

Follow USA TODAY tech reporter Marco della Cava on Twitter: @marcodellacava

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