Waymo, Fiat Chrysler expand autonomous vehicle partnership

DETROIT (Reuters) - Self-driving car company Waymo LLC and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV FCHA.MI are expanding their autonomous vehicle partnership to commercial vehicles, and Fiat Chrysler will develop fully self-driving vehicles exclusively with Waymo going forward, the companies said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Three of the fleet of 600 Waymo Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid self-driving vehicles are parked and displayed during a demonstration in Chandler, Arizona, November 29, 2018. REUTERS/Caitlin O’Hara/File Photo

Waymo, a unit of Google parent Alphabet Inc GOOGL.O, and Fiat Chrysler said they will work together to develop autonomous light commercial vehicles for moving goods, starting by integrating Waymo's self-driving technology into Ram ProMaster vans, which Fiat Chrysler sells globally.

Waymo’s Waymo Via autonomous goods delivery unit will use vehicles co-developed with Fiat Chrysler, the companies said.

Self-driving vehicle companies and automakers have been shifting investment and engineering to delivery and other commercial uses of autonomous vehicles, betting that moving goods will offer a faster route to profits than overcoming the technical, social and regulatory obstacles to moving people.

Fiat Chrysler is ending work on autonomous commercial vehicles it began in 2019 with startup Aurora. Aurora is continuing to use Chrysler minivans in its test fleets, and said in a statement that it “looks forward to deploying our self-driving solution on FCA’s passenger and commercial vehicles.”

In a blog post, Waymo and Fiat Chrysler said they will collaborate on “level 4” autonomous driving, a reference to a Society of Automotive Engineers classification that defines such vehicles as capable of driving themselves and taking action on their own if a dangerous situation occurs or the system fails.

Waymo has been working with Fiat Chrysler since 2016 to integrate its self-driving vehicle system, the Waymo Driver, into vehicles such as the Chrysler Pacifica minivan.

The expanded partnership with Fiat Chrysler will cover “ride-hailing, commercial delivery, and personal-use vehicles around the world,” Waymo Chief Executive John Krafcik said in a statement.

Fiat Chrysler’s chief executive, Mike Manley, said in a statement the automaker intends to deploy Waymo’s technology “across our entire product portfolio.” The companies didn’t say when new, autonomous vehicles will launch.

Fiat Chrysler also has a partnership with BMW AG BMWG.DE and Intel Corp INTC.O to develop automated driving technology.

Reporting by Joe White; Editing by Leslie Adler