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Google's self-driving cars are inches away from being made by Fiat Chrysler
Google is reportedly in the late stages of talks with Fiat Chrysler on an “advanced technical partnership” to produce autonomous vehicles. Auto Extremist first reported the deal, citing a source with direct knowledge of the negotiations, and The Wall Street Journal later corroborated the story. The deal will reportedly entail producing a self-driving version of the Pacifica minivan.
The CEO of Fiat Chrysler, Sergio Marchionne, and Google’s self-driving car project chief, John Krafcik, have apparently been meeting since not long after CES 2016. The two are reportedly now in the final stages of sealing a deal between Alphabet and Fiat Chrysler. So how would this deal benefit both sides?
Google stands to inherit FCA’s long-standing manufacturing know-how and a widespread dealer and repair center network. FCA on the other hand, has been looking for a technical partner or merger to help save its flailing business for a while. FCA is reported to be the “least technically savvy company in the car business”.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Fiat Chrysler has been looking for a “partner to share the cost of research and development”. The deal would be a win-win: Google gets an established manufacturing, distribution and servicing partner, and FCA gets a deep-pocketed savior with the technical guns to bring its business into the self-driving 21st century.
Google is likely looking at the long-term prospects of having an established manufacturing partner in the auto industry to help jump-start its project in the mainstream. For obvious reasons, Google would like to avoid having to set up its own infrastructure for the self-driving car project. Krafcik has gone on record admitting as much recently, confessing that Google desperately needs industry partners if the self-driving car project is to take off.
Krafcik told ReadWrite recently that “Airlines don’t build airplanes. Airbus and Boeing do that. Who knows how this is going to work out in autos?” Given the talks with FCA, it looks like we now know exactly what he meant by this, and exactly how it will work out for autos. Meanwhile, Google and Ford have joined forces to lead a coalition of companies advocating federal approval of driverless cars in the near future.
Are you excited by this news? Do you think Google has the right idea?
Up next: Everything to expect from Google I/O 2016