The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica in all its glory.
A report from Bloomberg claims that we’ll soon see a self-driving car deal between Google and Fiat Chrysler. The two companies are reportedly teaming up for a new round of self-driving car prototypes using a minivan, the Chrysler Pacifica.
The report describes the Pacifica as “the first phase of a joint project” to create self-driving cars. Fiat Chrysler would equip the Pacifica with Google’s autonomous tech “starting this year.” Bloomberg says the deal would not be exclusive for either company, allowing both to pursue other partners.
If the report turns out to be true, going with minivans would be an interesting choice. Google’s newest self-driving prototype is a tiny two-seater the company designed itself. The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica is a comparatively giant vehicle that seats seven people.
Google’s self-driving fleet also contains several Lexus RX450Hs and Toyota Priuses, making the Pacifica the company’s largest autonomous car. We were really hoping for a Fiat 500 mod, as it looks like a close cousin of Google’s custom cars.
At the North American International Auto Show, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne confirmed the company had “continuing conversations going on in Silicon Valley” when asked about Google and Apple. Google has stated multiple times it does not want to become a car manufacturer, making a deal with an existing auto maker a necessity.
The last Google/auto maker team-up we heard about was via a Yahoo Autos report that claimed Google and Ford were going to partner on self-driving cars. The terms of that supposed deal sounded a lot like this one—Google’s technology deal was “nonexclusive,” allowing it to seek other partners. That report said the Google-Ford deal would be announced at CES 2016, but no announcement followed, calling into question the accuracy of the report.
Bloomberg says this deal would be Google’s first with a car maker. The report also says Google also tried to ink a deal with General Motors, but the deal fell through over “disagreements over ownership of technology and data.” Bloomberg says we could see the official Google/Fiat Chrysler announcement as early as today.
Update: Google confirmed this is actually happening with a post on Google+. 100 Hybrid Pacificas will be used to “more than double” Google’s autonomous fleet. Google says Fiat Chrysler will “design the minivans so it’s easy for us to install our self-driving systems, including the computers that hold our self-driving software, and the sensors that enable our software to see what’s on the road around the vehicle.” It’s also going to use the Pacifica partnership as an experiment to see how larger vehicles deal with self-driving technology, saying it could be “easier for passengers to enter and exit, particularly with features like hands-free sliding doors.” Remember these are still just prototypes, but a Fiat Chrysler partnership could be a path to a commercial service.
Source: ARS Technica