This is first and foremost great news for Fiat Chrysler. The carmaker is lagging way behind other automakers when it comes to self-driving technology. The automaker hasn’t made any real effort to develop autonomous tech in-house. Meanwhile, Ford, Toyota and General Motors have been developing and testing their own self-driving cars for awhile now.
It’s also a win for Google, too, because it will more than double Google’s current fleet of autonomous test vehicles.
This is the first time Google’s Self-Driving Car Project has teamed up with an automaker to integrate its self-driving sensors and software into a passenger vehicle. Google and FCA will be working out of a facility in southeastern Michigan.
“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,” said FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne. “The experience both companies gain will be fundamental to delivering automotive technology solutions that ultimately have far-reaching consumer benefits.”
The plan is to start with about 100 minivans. They’ll be designed and engineered uniquely for Google’s self-driving technology.
“FCA will design the minivans so it’s easy for us to install our self-driving systems, including the computers that hold our self-driving software, and the sensors that enable our software to see what’s on the road around the vehicle,” said Google in a blog post. “The minivan design also gives us an opportunity to test a larger vehicle that could be easier for passengers to enter and exit, particularly with features like hands-free sliding doors.”
Google is now testing its self-driving cars in four U.S. cities. The project’s covered 1.5 million miles of public roads over the past seven years. The new Chrysler minivans will be tested on Google’s private test track in California before they head out onto public roads.