Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has some catching up to do with regard to autonomous driving (AD) technology. Historically, the company has been of the mind that spending vast amounts of capital developing self-driving tech is unpragmatic – especially when that capital could be invested into new product, or paying off outstanding debts.
But FCA found a quick, easy way to spring into the world of autonomous vehicles when it partnered with Alphabet subsidiary Waymo, which forked off from Google’s experienced autonomous car program. Now, that partnership is set to grow even stronger, with today’s announcement that FCA will supply as many as 62k Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans to Waymo over the next three years as the Alphabet company launches its self-driving-cab service.
Like the 600 Pacifica Hybrids with which FCA has furnished Waymo thus far, these minivans will be upfitted with powerful sensory and computing equipment to make them fully autonomous, as the Alphabet company launches the first self-driving-cab service. But just as important, Fiat Chrysler has started discussions with Waymo about offering fully-self-driving, Waymo-equipped retail vehicles to consumers by 2023, to become one of the first OEMs to offer an autonomous vehicle at retail. Until then, FCA will content itself with introducing semi-autonomous vehicles capable of performing most of the driving task under the Jeep, Ram, Alfa Romeo, and Maserati brands by 2019-2021.
FCA is also branching out and teaming with additional partners, today reiterating its collaboration with BMW to co-develop a Level 3 AD system – that is, one that can assume the tasks of acceleration, deceleration, and steering on most highways, with the ability to safely pull over automatically in the event of a failure. The two companies are sharing investments, validation/reliability test data, and other resources, while FCA engineers work alongside BMW at the German automaker’s autonomous driving campus near Munich.
Finally, FCA is expanding its study/development collaboration with Aptiv – a leading Tier 1 supplier in the area of Level 2+ AD systems. The collaboration will help the automaker introduce a Level “2+” system – similar to Level 3, except that the driver must be keep their eyes on the road to quickly take control if needbe – in 2020.