Waymo to get more than 60,000 cars from Fiat Chrysler for robotaxis

(Reuters) - Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV will add up to 62,000 more cars to Alphabet Inc’s autonomous driving unit Waymo, the companies said on Thursday, as part of Waymo’s plan to roll out a robotaxi service in the U.S. later this year.

A Waymo self-driving car is seen during the annual Google I/O developers conference in Mountain View, California, May 8, 2018. REUTERS/ Stephen Lam

The announcement comes on the day when Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp said it would invest $2.25 billion in General Motors Co’s self-driving unit.

Large tech companies, established automakers and well-funded startups including Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] and Tesla Inc are all stepping up efforts to gain pole position in the self-driving cars market, which is expected to carry the automobiles industry into the next era.

“We’re excited to deepen our relationship with FCA that will support the launch of our driverless service and explore future products that support Waymo’s mission,” Waymo Chief Executive Officer John Krafcik said in a statement.

Fiat Chrysler (FCA), which already has a partnership with Waymo, will add Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans to Waymo’s existing fleet, the companies said on Thursday. Delivery of the cars is expected to begin in late 2018.

The companies are also in early discussions about using Waymo’s technology in FCA cars to be sold in retail.

Alphabet’s self-driving unit said in March it will also add up to 20,000 Jaguar Land Rover Automotive Plc [TAMOJL.UL] electric vehicles to its upcoming autonomous fleet.

Waymo, which says it has self-driven 6 million miles on public roads, said on Thursday it was on track to launch the world’s first self-driving transportation service later this year, which will allow passengers to use Waymo’s app to request a vehicle.

The company has plans to roll out a ride service for the public in the Phoenix, Arizona area in coming months, with plans to later launch it more widely.

FCA, which has delivered 600 Pacifica Hybrid minivans to Waymo till date, first announced its partnership with the company in May 2016.

Reporting by Sonam Rai in Bengaluru and Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta