The existing autonomous vehicle partnership between Waymo and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) will be expanded, and FCA will develop fully self-driving vehicles exclusively with Waymo going forward, the companies said today, reported by Reuters.
Waymo, which is a unit of Google’s parent company Alphabet, and the carmaker will work together to develop autonomous light commercial vehicles for moving goods – this will kick-off by integrating Waymo’s self-driving tech into FCA’s Ram ProMaster vans. The Waymo Via autonomous goods delivery unit will use vehicles co-developed with FCA, the companies said.
This also means that FCA is ending work on autonomous LCVs it began in 2019 with startup Aurora. However, Aurora will continue to use Chrysler MPVs in its test fleet.
Self-driving vehicle tech firms and traditional carmakers have been shifting investment and engineering to delivery and other commercial uses of autonomous vehicles. This is a bet that moving goods will be a faster route to profits than overcoming the technical, social and regulatory obstacles to moving humans, the report says.
Waymo and FCA said they will collaborate on Level 4 autonomous driving, which defines vehicles as capable of driving themselves and taking action on their own if a dangerous situation occurs. When activated, the driver will no longer be required to monitor the system. However, the car will prompt the driver to take over driving duties for specific sections of road which has not been designed for the car’s systems to work. Production cars are now touching Level 3. More on self-driving levels in our guide here.
The expanded partnership will cover “ride-hailing, commercial delivery, and personal-use vehicles around the world,” Waymo CEO John Krafcik said in a statement. His counterpart at FCA, Mike Manley, said that the automaker plans to deploy Waymo’s technology “across our entire product portfolio.” No timeline was given, however.
Both parties have been working together since 2016 to integrate the Waymo Driver self-driving system into vehicles such as the Chrysler Pacifica MPV. In this congested field, FCA also has a partnership with BMW and Intel to develop automated driving tech.