Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has announced that it is forming a partnership with Google to develop 100 self driving minivan prototypes. The two companies will be working to create 100 self driving Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans. Fiat Chrysler’s CEO, Sergio Marchionne, said the Chrysler Pacifica minivans produced with Google will look physically different than the regular models after Google installs its sensors and self-driving technology. The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica is on sale now at dealerships.
The companies plan to co-locate engineering teams at a site in southeastern Michigan to develop the vehicles. There, the team will decide on the design, testing and manufacturing of the self-driving Chrysler Pacifica. It will be the first time Google has worked directly with an auto company to install self-driving sensors and computers on their vehicles. Google says it’s not currently licensing autonomous car technology to Fiat Chrysler or anyone else.
The deal with Google is widely viewed as a coup for the Detroit-area automaker. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Both companies are free to work with others as well. In recent months, there has been several other deals announced between Detroit automakers and Silicon Valley tech companies.
The race to self-driving cars has been heating up over the past few years. Google, a leader in the industry, has been working on self driving vehicle technology for the past seven years. The addition of the minivans will more than double the size of Google’s self-driving vehicle fleet. Currently, Google’s self driving car project has 21 modified Lexus SUVs, plus another 33 pod-like small cars. The additional vehicles are needed as Google expands real-world testing in four cities, including Mountain View, California; Austin, Texas; Kirkland, Washington; and the Phoenix, Arizona.
Marchionne hopes that the deal will be just the start of a longer relationship between the companies. The deal has the potential of to help FCA expand its expertise with self driving technology. Fiat Chrysler is currently behind several of its competitors, including Volkswagen and General Motors, when it comes to the development of key technology for self driving vehicles. Neither company would comment on possible future deals.
Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is considered one of the biggest companies in the world by market capitalization. Alphabet currently has a total value of about $495 billion, compared with $9.8 billion for Fiat Chrysler. Google has set a goal of having self-driving cars available to the public by 2020.