Google and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have confirmed a partnership in the area of autonomous cars.
As part of the partnership, Google’s autonomous car technology, which includes various sensors and complex software systems, will be fully integrated in about 100 Chrysler Pacifica minivans. These minivans will then join Google’s existing fleet of autonomous car prototypes already testing in Arizona, California, Texas, and Washington.
Crucially, FCA engineers will work alongside Google’s team to integrate the technology, marking the first time the tech firm has worked directly with an automaker. Previously, Google had to retrofit the technology using vehicles either sourced from Toyota or developed independently.
Google and FCA will co-locate part of their engineering teams at a facility in southeastern Michigan to accelerate the design, testing, and manufacturing of the autonomous Pacificas. Engineering responsibilities will be shared based on each company’s respective expertise.
Google’s long-term goal is to provide a means of individual private transport that can even be used by the elderly or vision impaired, as previewed by the pod-like prototype first shown two years ago. A person would hop in and simply select a destination. The car would then efficiently and safely drive there without the need for any human involvement.
If Google is successful in developing the technology and passing all necessary regulatory hurdles, it’s likely we see the tech firm license the technology or develop its own car based on an existing model from an established automaker, as opposed to developing its own car from scratch and building up a manufacturing base. The same is likely true for Apple, which is thought to have its own autonomous car project brewing.
As studies have shown, the vast majority of accidents are caused by human error. Google and many other firms see autonomous cars as the best means of reducing the number of deaths and injuries taking place on roads, and perhaps even eliminating them altogether.
The latest news comes at a time when Google is thought to be making its 7-year-old autonomous car unit, officially the Google Self-Driving Car Project, a standalone business under Alphabet, Google’s parent company. Currently, the unit is part of the Google X advanced research skunk works.