Google's self-driving tech is set to be built into 100 Fiat Chrysler minivans in a new "first of its kind" deal between the two companies,as the tech giant expands road-testing for its autonomous cars into high gear.
The joint effort represents a breakthrough in Google’s long-running search to find an auto-industry partner as it seeks to expand real-world testing for its seven-year-old self-driving technology. Google has said repeatedly it was not looking to get into the car manufacturing business.
Google will integrate self-driving sensors and software into 100 Chrysler Pacifica hybrid mini-vans, which will be built in Michigan and tested on Google’s private test track in California, before running on public roads in four cities including Mountain View, California; Austin, Texas; Kirkland, Washington; and Phoenix, Arizona.
"Chrysler has a nimble and experienced engineering team, and the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan is well-suited for Google’s self-driving technology," Google self-driving project head John Krafcik said.#
And the deal represents a boost for Fiat Chrysler as well, as its engineers are on track to gain more experience with building self-driving cars, at a time where it has lagged behind other big auto companies like General Motors and Volkswagen in the race to get autonomous cars on the road.
But the deal will not be exclusive - both companies may work with other industry players. Google will maintain ownership of the gas-electric hybrid vans, and it is not licensing its technology to Fiat Chrysler. Financial details were not disclosed.
Currently, Google’s fleet of autonomous cars included 21 Lexus SUVs, and 33 smaller cars. It aims to get self-driving cars on the road by 2020.
jd/uhe (AP, dpa, AFP)