Google and Chrysler have entered into an agreement that will see engineers from both companies cooperate on the development of autonomous driving technologies at a joint-run facility in southern Michigan, according to recent reports.
The new agreement is being accompanied by Google’s decision to purchase 100 brand-new Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid (PHEV) minivans for use in the testing of autonomous driving technology.
Something very important to note here, is the fact that the autonomous driving hardware and ancillary computer systems provided by Google will be incorporated directly into the Pacificas during manufacturing. So, the autonomous Pacificas will presumably look pretty much just like any other Pacificas out there. This will be in contrast to the rather conspicuous retrofitted Lexus 450h vehicles used by Google currently (in addition to the Roush-built vehicles).
“FCA has a nimble and experienced engineering team and the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan is well-suited for Google’s self-driving technology,” stated John Krafcik, CEO of Google self-driving car project. “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.”
The FCA Chairman Sergio Marchionne commented as well: “Working with Google provides an opportunity for FCA to partner with one of the world’s leading technology companies to accelerate the pace of innovation in the automotive industry. The experience both companies gain will be fundamental to delivering automotive technology solutions that ultimately have far-reaching consumer benefits.”
Gas 2 provides more:
The agreement will help both Chrysler and its parent company, FCA, gain access to self driving technology, an area in which both have little experience. There are reports that FCA chairman Sergio Marchionne was personally involved in the negotiations with Google. The fact that the new Pacifica will be available as a plug-in hybrid was a plus for Google.
…Both Google and FCA will be free to partner with other companies, according to the terms of the agreement. Late last year, it was rumored that Google had agreed to team up with Ford, but the proposed link up between the two companies never materialized. A deal with General Motors fell apart this spring because of disagreements over ownership of technology and data.
The irrepressible Marchionne is quite open about his desire to find a merger partner for Chrysler before he steps down as CEO in 2018. His belief is that auto makers waste capital developing multiple versions of the same technology. The industry needs to consolidate in order to become more profitable. Having access to advanced autonomous driving technology will make FCA more attractive to potential corporate suitors.
All of this may end up moot, though, if Tesla manages to achieve its recently ramped-up goals for the next few years.