Google and Fiat Chrysler have announced a new deal that will have the Internet giant buying 100 or so plug-in hybrid minivans from the auto maker for its self-driving vehicle program. Google will work with Fiat Chrysler to integrate its self-driving technology directly into the minivans, which were launched in February. Engineers from both FCA and Google will be teamed up at a southeastern Michigan facility to work on the minivans.
The two companies announced the partnership in a statement today, saying in part that FCA will “initially design and engineer around 100 vehicles uniquely built for Google’s self-driving technology. Google will integrated the suite of sensors and computers that the vehicles will rely on to navigate roads autonomously.”
The deal concerns Fiat Chrysler’s new Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid — once built, the 100 or so special minivans will be tested on Google’s private track in California by the company’s self-driving team. The addition of the minivans will be, at the least, doubling Google’s autonomous vehicle fleet, and could lead to testing in an expanded number of cities around the nation.
The deal is unique in how it is planned — with Google working with FCA to build the cars rather than Google retrofitting them with the technology itself — and it’s good news for Fiat Chrysler, which has been lagging behind its peers in the autonomous aspects of the auto industry.