Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) are building 100 autonomous minivans. This the first time ever that a tech company from Silicon Valley, allies with an automaker, in order to develop a self-driving vehicle, as announced by both companies on Tuesday.
Sensors and software of the Google’s self-driving technology will be integrated into the passenger vehicle, said Reuters on Wednesday. Collaborations of this kind are creating a new market, where tech companies and carmakers converge.
On the other hand, FCA’s rivals such as BMW and Volkswagen have decided to build their own self-driving technologies. The Italian-American multinational has a net debt of $7.6 billion. According to Reuters, Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne has met competitors such as General Motors, to propose them a fusion to divide research and development costs.
Google and Fiat Chrysler engineers will work together to make 100 autonomous Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans. These vehicles offer seats for up to eight people. Google said the company is interested in testing its self-driving technology in larger vehicles, with interesting features such as hands-free sliding doors.
The joint work will be conducted at a facility in Southeast Michigan, where the major North American engineering centre of Fiat Chrysler is located. It is expected that the first Google-FCA vehicles will hit the roads by the end of 2016.
“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,” John Krafcik, chief executive of the Google Self-Driving Car Project, said in a statement, according to Reuters.
Google wants to sell its self-driving technology to car manufacturers
The tech giant led by Sundar Pichai is not interested in developing self-driving vehicles on its own, said Reuters. As a result, it has tried to ally with auto companies. In January, rumors about a deal between Google and Ford surfaced, but both companies have denied providing further details.
A collaboration with Fiat Chrysler can help Google enhance its autonomous driving technology, as a previous step towards mass production for regular cars. Marchionne said in a statement that the automaker has partnered with one of the world’s leading technology companies, to accelerate innovation in the industry.
Fiat Chrysler is the seventh-largest automaker. Currently, Google has a testing fleet of about 70 vehicles, including its own prototype cars and some SUVs, developed by Toyota’s Lexus. Other automakers such as GM, Ford Motor, and BMW have expressed concern about the Google’s self-driving technology since they are not interested in being only hardware suppliers.