Sergio Marchionne has been long searching for a partner for FCA. He knows cars are on the verge of a revolution and is fighting to get the company he runs prepared for it. These partnerships aim to make FCA gain more scale or to be technologically ready for the future. And FCA has announced today a major step towards this second option. It will team up with Google to develop an autonomous car. More specifically a self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid. Even more precisely, 100 of them.
This is the first time Google accepts to work directly with an automaker. Previous efforts have used cars that the technology giant bought and changed or one that Google has produced by itself. The benefits go to both sides. Google can double its current fleet, speeding up the development of the technology. Besides that, if it decides to mass produce its autonomous car, Google can hand over the production to a company that knows really well how to do so in all its aspects (legal, financial and technical). On the FCA part, it makes sure to learn from a company that is researching this technology for more than 7 years and 2.4 million km, if it ever decides to produce autonomous cars of its own.
The hybrid minivan has been chosen because it can run on electricity, one of the goals of Google with its autonomous cars. It will be fitted with all sensors and software Google uses in its self-driving cars. Both companies will put their engineering teams to work together in southeastern Michigan. The Chrysler Pacifica units for Google will be especially designed to use Google’s technology in the most efficient way.
Before the autonomous Pacifica units are put in public roads, they will be tested by Google in a private test track in California. Google says it wants to avoid the car accidents that kill 33,000 every year in the USA. FCA does not say anything about this, but it wants to make sure it has a place in this safer future. For people and for cars.