Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ partnership with Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo subsidiary has proven a smart one for FCA. The deal has contributed some 62k sales to FCA’s total unit sales figures for the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan, while allowing the automaker to surge to the fore of the burgeoning self-driving-car space without having to make big, risky investments as other global car companies have done.
Now, FCA’s Waymo partnership could face fresh, stiff competition from an alliance between Japan’s Toyota Motor Corporation and transportation network company Uber Technologies. Toyota announced Monday that it is investing $500 million in Uber, and will expand its collaborative efforts with the company in order to bring a full-scale autonomous ride-sharing service to market. The strategy bears more than just a little resemblance to the aim of FCA’s Waymo partnership, which is to establish a self-driving cab service after wrapping up testing around Phoenix, Arizona.
“Combining efforts with Uber, one of the predominant global ride-sharing and automated driving R&D companies, could further advance future mobility,” says Shigeki Tomoyama, President of Toyota Connected Company – a Toyota Motor Corporation subsidiary. “This agreement and investment marks an important milestone in our transformation to a mobility company as we help provide a path for safe and secure expansion of mobility services like ride-sharing that includes Toyota vehicles and technologies.”
Even the choice of vehicle is similar to that selected by the FCA-Waymo partnership: the Toyota Sienna minivan. Some number of the vans will be specially-built to include both Uber’s autonomous driving system and Toyota’s Guardian automated safety system, plus Toyota’s Mobility Services Platform – a connected-vehicle information infrastructure. The joint effort is slated to launch a pilot program within the Uber ride-sharing network in 2021.