Chrysler and Google have agreed to work together on self driving car technology. Google will buy 100 new Chrysler Pacifica minivans and use them to test autonomous systems. Engineers from both companies will work together at a joint facility in southern Michigan.
Previously, Google purchased several Lexus 450h vehicles and added their own equipment to them. This time, Chrysler will incorporate the autonomous driving hardware and ancillary computer system directly into the Pacificas during the manufacturing process.
“FCA has a nimble and experienced engineering team and the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan is well-suited for Google’s self-driving technology,” John Krafcik, CEO of Google self-driving car project, said in a statement. “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.”
The agreement will help both Chrysler and its parent company, FCA, gain access to self driving technology, an area in which both have little experience. There are reports that FCA chairman Sergio Marchionne was personally involved in the negotiations with Google. The fact that the new Pacifica will be available as a plug-in hybrid was a plus for Google.
“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,” Marchionne said in a statement on Tuesday. “The experience both companies gain will be fundamental to delivering automotive technology solutions that ultimately have far-reaching consumer benefits.”
Both Google and FCA will be free to partner with other companies, according to the terms of the agreement. Late last year, it was rumored that Google had agreed to team up with Ford, but the proposed link up between the two companies never materialized. A deal with General Motors fell apart this spring because of disagreements over ownership of technology and data.
The irrepressible Marchionne is quite open about his desire to find a merger partner for Chrysler before he steps down as CEO in 2018. His belief is that auto makers waste capital developing multiple versions of the same technology. The industry needs to consolidate in order to become more profitable. Having access to advanced autonomous driving technology will make FCA more attractive to potential corporate suitors.
In fact, several of the largest companies are already working together. Toyota and BMW are collaborating on several future models. Ford and General Motors are jointly designing new transmissions. Such corporate marriages do not always work out, however. Earlier this year, Ford walked away from a long term joint project with Toyota that focused on developing hybrid powertrains for pickup trucks. Toyota felt aggrieved by the breakup and accused Ford of bad faith.
Will the Google/Chrysler arrangement fare any better? The sticking point in these arrangements is usually ownership of the technology after the collaboration is complete. Apparently, Google and Chrysler both feel an open marriage that leaves them free to date other partners is the way to go. The fact that Google romanced both Ford and GM before hooking up with Chrysler indicates the Silicon Valley company really has no interest in manufacturing automobiles. It prefers to leave that to those who do so for a living.
Source: Automotive News