Google to Get Fiat Chrysler Minivans for Driverless Tests

Google to Get Fiat Chrysler Minivans for Driverless Tests
Fiat Chrysler will provide Google with Chrysler Pacifica minivans to be outfitted with driverless technology.

The development of self-driving cars in recent years has been primarily a competition between technology companies and automakers working independently of each other.

But that dynamic changed markedly on Tuesday, when Google said it would expand its testing of autonomous vehicles by installing its technology in a fleet of minivans made by Fiat Chrysler.

The deal is the most prominent example yet of a Silicon Valley company collaborating with a traditional automaker on self-driving vehicles.

It could also prove to be a breakthrough in the generally wary relationship between technology and auto companies, and prompt more collaborative efforts.

The deal is a major departure for Google, which previously had chosen to work mostly on its own in creating and testing self-driving vehicles.

For Fiat Chrysler, the arrangement allows the company to gain access to Google’s expertise in driverless cars rather than develop its own technology.

Analysts said Fiat Chrysler needed a partner to catch up to other car companies that are investing heavily in self-driving vehicles.

“It couldn’t have picked a better one than Google, which is far down the road with self-driving cars,” said Michelle Krebs, an analyst with the firm Autotrader.

No financial terms were disclosed for the deal, which calls for Fiat Chrysler to provide Google with 100 Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans built specifically to accommodate self-driving features.

The companies said that Fiat Chrysler would design and engineer the minivans, and that Google would then integrate sensors and computer systems into the vehicles.

The arrangement is the first time Google has worked directly with an automaker to adapt mass-market vehicles for self-driving purposes. Until now, Google had used an automotive supplier to build its own autonomous-vehicle prototypes.

John Krafcik, the chief executive of the Google Self-Driving Car Project, said the deal was a critical step in efforts to create autonomous vehicles for everyday driving. He said the collaboration “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.”

Sergio Marchionne, Fiat Chrysler’s chief executive, has been outspoken in recent months about his company’s desire to form technology partnerships, partly to defray the cost of developing high-tech systems on its own.

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