It’s official: fiat chrysler will be the first major automaker to test google’s technology for self-driving cars. As a first step, the companies will jointly install google technology in about 100 hybrid-powered cars based on chrysler’s pacifica minivan. Google will integrate the necessary sensors and computers, and chrysler engineers will adapt the vehicles to them, it was announced tuesday in new york.
Google has long been on the lookout for partners in the auto industry who could use its technology, developed over the past seven years, for self-driving vehicles. Talks with general motors broke down last year over differences about data use, the financial service reported bloomberg. At the turn of the year, there was speculation about a collaboration with ford, but the company instead announced it would step up development of its own technology.
While no partner appeared to be in sight, google executives consistently stressed that the internet company did not want to become a carmaker itself, and expressed confidence that there would eventually be collaborations. Fiat chrysler has been considered a likely google partner for some time, because the company is not as far along with the development of its own technology for autonomous driving as other major players.
In recent years, google has made massive progress in collecting and analyzing data about the environment in the car and letting the software control the vehicle on this basis. According to some industry experts, however, many automakers are reluctant to cooperate with google: they are worried about losing data that is essential for future business models and thus losing their leadership role to the internet company. Google denies such tensions.
The head of fiat chrysler, sergio marchionne, had repeatedly shown himself to be more open than other captains of the industry to cooperations with technology companies such as apple and google. The automotive business is changing dramatically with the networking of vehicles and the advance of software and online services. In addition, according to media reports, apple is also working on its own car, which is said to be ready for 2020. Marchionne’s argument is that traditional carmakers will not be able to get by without cooperating with internet companies. Other manufacturers are trying to expand it expertise in-house as far as possible.
Google initially installed its technology for autonomous driving in-house only in already finished vehicles from other manufacturers such as toyota. In the meantime, there is also a fleet of small electric two-seaters on the road that were developed at google. In the future, the company wants to dispense with traditional controls such as steering wheels and pedals and leave the steering to the computer alone. On this basis, a new automated transport system for cities could be developed. The group emphasizes that self-driving cars will improve road safety and drastically reduce the number of traffic fatalities. At the same time, experts expect that manufacturers will sell fewer cars because significantly more vehicles will be shared.
Google parent alphabet gave the car project a chief executive officer last year in the form of former hyundai executive john krafcik, a title common at standalone companies. The self-driving pacifica minivans will be built by a joint team at a site in southwest michigan, the companies announced late tuesday. Before they hit the streets, they will be tested on google’s private test site in california later this year. According to the wall street journal the partners plan to unveil operational prototypes at the detroit auto show in january 2017.