Waymo Orders Up to 62,000 Chrysler Pacificas for Autonomous Service
Fiat Chrysler and Waymo look to sell autonomous cars directly to consumers
MILAN, Italy — Speculation is rampant here that Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne will announce the end of the road for the Chrysler marque at the company's Investor Day and Five-Year Plan in nearby Balocco, Friday.
If that happens, it won't be before 2019, as Fiat Chrysler will deliver up to 62,000 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans to Alphabet's autonomous vehicle unit, Waymo, for conversion to self-driving vehicles for on-demand rides by the end of this year.
Waymo plans to offer "the world's first self-driving service" available via the Waymo app, late this year. The company already has been using "thousands" of Chrysler Pacifica Hybrids for autonomous vehicle testing on public roads, in states where such testing is allowed. Last week, late-night television host Jimmy Kimmel played a prank on Guillermo Rodriguez when the sidekick was left in the back seat of a Waymo Pacifica that was driving itself on the streets, on ABC-TV's "Jimmy Kimmel Live!"
In addition to the tech company's purchase of the minivans, Waymo and Fiat Chrysler announced they are "beginning discussions to use Waymo technology, including potentially through licensing, in FCA-manufactured vehicles available for retail" customers.
"Strategic partnerships, such as the one we have with Waymo, will help to drive innovative technology to the forefront," Marchionne, who is set to retire as Fiat Chrysler CEO by the end of this year, said in a press statement. [Marchionne will remain CEO of Ferrari.]
"We're excited to deepen our relationship with FCA, that will support the launch of our driverless services, and explore future products that support Waymo's mission," said Waymo's CEO, John Krafcik, in a statement. Fiat Chrysler does not have an exclusive deal with Waymo, to date, as the Google/Alphabet unit has partnered with other car companies in developing its technology.
The deal also gives Fiat Chrysler a jump on General Motors, which has applied with the U.S. Department of Transportation to put its Cruise Technology driverless cars, which essentially are Chevrolet Bolts without steering wheels or pedals, on public roads in 2019. GM announced Thursday that Japan-based SoftBank Vision Fund will invest $2.25-billion in its Cruise Technology. The autonomous car race is on.