Whichever company winds up owning Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will likely inherit the underpinnings for a self-driving future. One day after reports circulated that the perennially for-sale automaker was shopping itself to a Chinese company, FCA said Wednesday it will join a major alliance working to develop an autonomous-driving platform that could be used across the globe. Chrysler executives have signed a memorandum of understanding to build the technology along with BMW, Intel, and Mobileye.
“In order to advance autonomous driving technology, it is vital to form partnerships among automakers, technology providers, and suppliers,” said Sergio Marchionne, FCA’s chief executive officer (pictured above). “Joining this cooperation will enable FCA to directly benefit from the synergies and economies of scale that are possible when companies come together with a common vision and objective.”
The agreement links Chrysler with its second big partner in the autonomous realm and affirms the company’s place among the major players racing to turn self-driving cars into a reality. Last year, the company started building minivans outfitted with Waymo’s self-driving systems, and the two companies are in the throes of building 500 autonomous minivans, which, when finished, would represent the world’s largest self-driving fleet.
With BMW, Intel, and Mobileye, Chrysler joins an alliance that formed in July 2016. The group is working to develop an autonomous platform that could be used by member automakers and also licensed to others outside the alliance to deliver vehicles with a wide range of autonomous capabilities.
Some details remain unclear, but the group says in a written statement that FCA will bring engineering and “other technical resources and expertise” to the group, “as well as its significant sales volumes, geographic reach, and long-time experience in North America.” Most of the work will be done in Germany, although there will be other locations used, among them presumably Israel, where Intel recently said it would base its autonomous team following its $15 billion acquisition of Mobileye earlier this year.
Working together, the group intends to make fully autonomous cars—those that can operate without a human ever expected to intervene—commercially available by 2021. Their efforts will take a big step later this year, when the group says it will launch 40 cars used in pilot projects based both in the United States and Germany.
It’s possible that, as Chrysler is brought into the fold, the scope of those plans could expand both in number of cars involved and test-bed locations. A spokesperson said that FCA vehicles will be a part of the test fleet and that all parties are currently figuring out the extent to which Chrysler can ready vehicles.