Google and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced the automaker will provide a test fleet of about 100 plug-in Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans which will be equipped with Google’s self-driving technology. This will be the first time Google has worked directly with an automaker to integrate its self-driving system, including the sensors and software, into a passenger vehicle. Both have committed to co-locating parts of their respective engineering teams to a facility in Michigan to expedite the design, testing and manufacturing process. The announcement also indicated engineering responsibilities will be shared according to each firm’s area of specific expertise.

Exploring mutual synergies

“FCA has a nimble and experienced engineering team and the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan is well-suited for Google’s self-driving technology,” noted John Krafcik, chief executive of the Google Self-Driving Car Project in confirming the program. “The opportunity to work closely with FCA engineers will accelerate our efforts to develop a fully self-driving car that will make our roads safer and bring everyday destinations within reach for those who cannot drive.”

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Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of FCA, shares Krafcik’s enthusiasm for speeding the pace of innovation in this emerging arena, adding: “The experience both companies gain will be fundamental to delivering automotive technology solutions that ultimately have far-reaching consumer benefits.”

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Google has racked up over 1.4 million miles in on-road autonomous vehicle tests in four U.S. cities, but this new deal with FCA will more than double the size of its test fleet. These Google-spec Chrysler Pacifica Hybrids will undergo initial shakedown runs starting later this year on Google’s private test track in California before heading out onto pubic thoroughfares. However, none will be sold to the public. While offering an excellent opportunity for FCA to broaden its autonomous driving knowledge base, Marchionne later noted there is currently no exclusive agreement between the two companies and that both remain free to pursue other partnerships.   

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