GOOGLE PARTNERS WITH FCA

Google and Fiat Chrysler Automobile (FCA) have announced that they will be integrating Google’s self-driving technology into the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan to further expand its autonomous testing fleet.

This is the first time Google has partnered directly with an OEM. FCA will outfit 100 vehicles built uniquely for Google. Both companies will co-locate engineering teams at a FCA facility in Michigan to accelerate the collaboration.

Currently, Google has been using modified Lexus and Toyota SUVs and hybrids along with 100 ‘pod-cars’ developed by Google itself. According to reports, Google already has existing relationships with Tier 1 suppliers such as Continental AG, Bosch, ZF, LG, and NVIDIA, but has been searching for an OEM to collaborate with, as well.

According to Colin Bird, senior analyst, IHS Automotive, ‘Google has been a strong proponent of what IHS Automotive calls ‘L5’ autonomous or ‘driverless’ car technology. This is autonomous car technology that does not require human handoff and instead completely relies on the artificial intelligence to pilot the vehicle. By IHS definition, there are no steering controls in a L5 vehicle. Google is a leader in self-driving and driverless car mapping technology and testing.

‘It has been the belief of IHS analysts that Google not only wants to develop the driverless car software, but that the company would want to partner with an OEM or supplier for a future potential product(s) and potentially a car-as-a-service (CaaS). The company may also simply want to license its technology to OEMs, under a more traditional manufacturer-supplier relationship.

‘Google’s software today is more capable than most human drivers under certain conditions, but still requires significant advances to handle weather and rare events. The company has long been a pioneer in this space, helping to steer the direction of autonomous car research and development.’

There are reasons Google might see an advantage in working with FCA, including the automaker’s efforts to find a partner and share capital. Up to now, based on IHS Automotive analysis, FCA has little to no research or development in terms of L3-L5 autonomous car research and the carmaker has made no remarks to the contrary. Thus far, more than eight OEMs have made autonomous car announcements (mostly with target dates of 2020) and FCA has not been one of them.

IHS forecasts that there will be approximately 10.5 million self-driving and driverless (L4 and L5) cars in use globally by 2030.