Google and Fiat Chrysler (FCA) will jointly develop a self-driving version of the Chrysler Pacifica hybrid people mover, which will be added to the search giant’s ever growing fleet of research and test autonomous vehicles.
As part of this deal, the two companies will each assign a group of engineers who will work together, at a site in southeastern Michigan, to design, engineer and test the self-driving people carrier.
According to the companies, engineering duties will be spread around based “on each company’s respective expertise”, with the Silicon Valley company responsible for sensors, computers and software that enable self-driving functionality.
The initial agreement calls for 100 self-driving Pacificas to be produced. Once the new car has proven itself on Google’s private test track in California, it will join the company’s road-going test fleet, more than doubling its numbers.
This is the first major collaboration between Google and an established automobile maker, and contrasts markedly with how the search giant has built up its autonomous vehicle fleet thus far.
The majority of its current fleet are Lexus RX crossovers, which were specially equipped by Google with its latest self-driving hardware and software after purchase. More recently, the search giant developed its own self-driving pod car, which, within the last year, has been permitted to begin testing on public roads.
Announcing today’s deal, John Krafcik, CEO of Google’s Self-Driving Car Project, said: “The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan is well-suited for Google’s self-driving technology. 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.”
Sergio Marchionne, FCA’s CEO, added: “Working with Google provides an opportunity for FCA to partner with one of the world’s leading technology companies to accelerate the pace of innovation in the automotive industry.
The experience both companies gain will be fundamental to delivering automotive technology solutions that ultimately have far-reaching consumer benefits.”
Reports surfaced last week that Google and the Italian-American car maker were close to a deal regarding autonomous vehicle technology.
Some thought that the deal might involve Google’s autonomous vehicle technology appearing in showroom-bound versions of the new Pacifica people mover, but today’s deal makes no mention of public availability.