Fiat to Grow Google's Test Fleet With Self-Driving Minivans

Automaker, Tech Giant Announce Partnership

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Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan
Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan Credit: FCA US LLC/PR Newswire

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Alphabet Inc.'s Google plan to develop about 100 self-driving prototypes based on the carmaker's Pacifica minivan, the companies said today.

The collaboration is the first phase of a joint project to create autonomous vehicles, people familiar with the matter said. The vehicles will be used by Google to test its self-driving technology. The companies would remain free to cooperate in driverless technology with other partners, said people familiar with the matter.

Fiat won't license any of Google's self-driving technology, spokeswoman Dianna Gutierrez said. The minivans will be part of Google's test fleet, she said in an e-mail.

The accord is Google's first with a major automaker since the technology giant began developing self-driving cars on its own in 2014. Fiat Chrysler Chairman John Elkann said last month that the Italian-American carmaker should work with "new industry participants" like Google and Apple Inc. rather than compete with them.

Fiat Chrysler Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne, who mentioned a possible partnership with Google in December, has been directly involved in talks with the U.S. company, people familiar with the matter said in April.

Google, which has run more than 1.4 million miles of tests on its own driverless prototypes, has been in discussions with various auto manufacturers about working together. A deal with General Motors Co. couldn't be concluded because of disagreements over ownership of technology and data, a person familiar with the matter said in April.

Partnering with Google is in keeping with Mr. Marchionne's approach to development. He contends that carmakers waste capital developing multiple versions of the same technology and that the industry should consolidate to become more profitable. He intends to put Fiat Chrysler in a better position for a merger by the time he steps down as the manufacturer's CEO in 2018.

-Bloomberg News

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