Fiat Chrysler and Waymo just announced an exclusive deal for advanced self-driving technology (GOOGL, FCAU)

  • Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has expanded its relationship with Waymo, making the Alphabet self-driving division its exclusive partner.
  • Waymo will provide its autonomous “Driver” technology to FCA’s entire vehicle brand portfolio.
  • FCA and Waymo had already collaborated on the Waymo One ride-hailing service in Arizona; Waymo One uses Chrysler Pacifica minivans.
  • The companies said they would commence a new effort for commercial vehicles, using the RAM ProMaster cargo vehicle.
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On Wednesday, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced that it had chosen Waymo, the self-driving company spun off Alphabet in 2016, to bring autonomous technology to all of its vehicle brands.

“FCA has selected Waymo as its exclusive, strategic technology partner for [level 4] fully self-driving technology across FCA’s full product portfolio,” the automaker said in a statement posted at the Waymo blog.

“We’ve already started to work together to imagine future FCA products for the movement of people and goods operated by the Waymo Driver.”

The “Driver” is Waymo terminology for a combination of hardware and software that can perform as well as, or ideally better than, a human driver. “Level 4” has been defined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as “high automation,” with a self-driving vehicle capable of performing all driving functions “under certain conditions,” with a human driver still able to take control. NHTSA says that it’s one step short of level 5, where the vehicle can drive itself under all conditions.

“FCA was our first [major auto industry] partner, and we’ve come a long way together,” Waymo CEO John Krafcik said in a statement.

Introducing the Waymo Driver throughout the FCA portfolio

Waymo Via Packshot
Waymo Via vehicles are used for deliveries and freight.
Waymo

Waymo has been using Chrysler Pacifica minivans for its Waymo One service in the Phoenix, Arizona, area since late 2018. Waymo has worked with other automakers, including Jaguar Land Rover, but this deal means that FCA will be using only Waymo tech to provide autonomy for its entire lineup.

“Guided by the Waymo Driver,” FCA CEOP Mike Manley said in a statement, those Pacificas “have now safely and reliably driven more fully autonomous miles than any other vehicle on the planet.”

He added that the companies would open “new frontiers for ride-hailing, commercial delivery, and personal-use vehicles around the world.”

On the commercial front, the next FCA vehicle to get the Waymo Driver will be the RAM ProMaster, a cargo vehicle. Waymo said the ProMaster would be incorporated into Waymo Via, its freight and delivery division.

FCA had previously said it would work with Aurora, a California-based autonomy startup, on commercial vehicles.

This looks like the beginning of a deepening partnership for Waymo and FCA. “We’ve already started to work together to imagine future FCA products for the movement of people and goods operated by the Waymo Driver,” Waymo said.

Neither company provided details, but FCA is in the process of merging with France’s PSA Group, with the tie-up scheduled to officially happen in 2021, and presumably, the FCA-Waymo plan would be absorbed into the conjoined automakers.

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