Fiat Chrysler and Google, a historic deal for designing self-driving cars

Google and Fiat Chrysler will be partner in the development of self-driving cars. The prototypes will be based on the Chrysler Pacifica hybrid vehicle.

A brief acquaintance, a quick engagement. Finally, the marriage. The FCA group and Alphabet – the holding company that includes Google – have signed a deal for the development of self-driving cars. After about three months of negotiations, on one hand Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat Chrysler, obtained Google’s self-driving-car technology. On the other the Californian giant found a leading car manufacturer that will realise the hi-tech prototypes of autonomous cars, while waiting for the definitive models that will appear for the first time in 2019-2020.

Chrysler Pacifica
Chrysler Pacifica

Google and Fiat Chrysler, a deal for sustainable mobility

It’s a historic partnership that, on one hand, numbers the FCA group – that includes Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Lancia, Abarth, Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge and Ram – among the most innovative car manufacturers on the market, bridging a technological gap between the Italian group and its competitors Audi, Mercedes-Benz or Tesla. On the other, it promotes the development of self-driving cars and sustainable mobility. A true revolution in the way cars are conceived: in the future there could be “empty” vehicles picking up passengers in different areas of the city, which would drastically reduce the vehicles in circulation. These would probably be hybrid or even electric.

Google Koala Car
Google Koala Car

The travelling laboratory is a plug-in hybrid car

FCA will provide the multinational company Mountain View with a hundred Chrysler Pacifica minivans that will be turned into travelling laboratories for developing new technology. Why this model? A replacement of Grand Voyager, Pacifica led to the development of the first plug-in hybrid powertrain that uses batteries rechargeable in common sockets of the FCA group. The American minivan combines a petrol-fuelled 3.6 V6 engine with two electric engines so that users can run up to 48 km just with the electric technology. This vehicle is the first technological invention by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to create a path towards a new mobility (that would probably be driverless).


Google Koala Car
Google Koala Car is a self-driving vehicle.

Google Cars travelled 4 million kilometres

The two companies reached the deal after that, from 2009 to today, tests on Google cars allowed the vehicles to travel for more than 4 million kilometres, of which 2.4 million autonomously, using the interaction between the electric engine, radar sensors, lasers and software based on Google Maps technology/cartography. The project uses 21 outfitted Lexus RX450h vehicles and 33 prototypes called Koala. “Collaborating with Google provides an opportunity for Fiat Chrysler to partner with one of the world’s leading technology companies to accelerate the pace of innovation in the automotive industry”, Sergio Marchionne commented on the deal with the Californian factory. “The experiences both companies gain will be fundamental to delivering automotive technology solutions that ultimately have far-reaching commercial benefits”, he added. “Self-driving cars will make our roads safer and bring everyday destinations within reach for those who cannot drive”, FCA stated when announcing the historic deal. The ultimate goal is “creating a fully self-driving car that can take people from A to B with the touch of a button”.

Chrysler Pacifica
Chrysler Pacifica, the model chosen for the deal between Fiat Chrysler and Google

A hard blow to the Apple project

The opinion of the Californian giant is as enthusiastic as that of the Italian company. Indeed John Krafcik, the former Hyundai Motor America chief and current CEO of the Google Car project, stated that the FCA group can rely on a successful and experienced team of engineers and Pacifica is suitable to include the technology of the Big G. In addition, thanks to this partnership, a new Google branded car will be manufactured by FCA. Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO isn’t too happy about this because Apple is designing a self-driving electric car, too. Cupertino’s commercial partners for the project named Titan are still unknown at the moment. Rumour has it that a team of engineers is working very hard in Silicon Valley as well as in a branch in Berlin, but the strategy to put driverless vehicles on the road is still in its early stages and could lead to no results before 2019, the year when FCA and Google aim to present its first self-driving cars. This unless recent events encourage Apple to reach a deal with Mercedes-Benz, BMW or Volkswagen – the most qualified partners – or to rely on the Austrian company Magna Steyr in order to create the first iCar.

No matter which company will be the pioneer of driverless cars, the development of new technology will considerably reduce car accidents caused by human error, which accounts for 94% of the 33,000 accidents taking place every year in the United States. And it will also allow drivers to give up older and more polluting cars and cut emissions.

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