Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Google affiliate Waymo are starting discussions on developing Level 4 fully self-driving cars to be available on some FCA premium cars by about 2023, FCA executives said at the presentation of the automaker's 2018-2022 business plan on Friday.
FCA and Waymo announced Thursday they will expand their partnership with an agreement to add up to 62,000 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans to Waymo’s self-driving fleet, with deliveries starting late this year.
On Friday, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne said: “The relationship with Waymo is a lot deeper than it sounds. Our goal is to be the first to license it in our vehicles.”
Marchionne responded to criticism that FCA is behind rivals in self-driving technology. "There are a lot of people who have been making a lot of noise about what they have. We have been incredibly quiet. The safest thing we can do as an OEM is keep all our options open."
The systems will cost $30,000 initially and then the cost will fall to $10,000 over time, said technology chief Harold Wester.
“It’s a pilot project and it is very expensive,” Wester said. “But it is important for the organization. It’s just a couple of thousand cars a year but it is to stay in close touch with this technology and train the organization and everything which goes down stream, the service organization.
Wester and Marchionne said that FCA’s strategy on autonomous driving is to keep its options open.
“It is way too early to tell and try to declare a winner” in this technology," said Marchionne. “The best way for us to pour capital in this space is to explore.”
Wester said the automaker’s autonomous driving strategy is based on three pillars:
- Achieving near-term advancements in Level 2 and Level 3 mobility, which it believes it will need to compete in the premium segment.
- Setting up partnerships so it can participate in promising revenue streams that will come from the transport and service market.
- Increasing the likelihood that FCA will be among the first to offer fully autonomous vehicles in the premium segment.
"We are focusing on deepening our partnership with Waymo based on a clear view of what we can and cannot do,” West said. “We recognize that manufacturing a vehicle does not qualify you to operate a fleet of autonomous taxis."
Wester warned that fully self-driving vehicles still face hurdles. "Our conclusion has been and continues to be that there are many unanswered questions [about autonomous driving]. And too many uncharted areas. Way too many. There is no evidence right now about who will win this race."
Wester said he was not aware of a real Level 3 car on the road. “We will have Level 2 in 2019,” he said.
Last year Fiat Chrysler said it was joining an alliance with automakers and suppliers including BMW, Delphi, Continental, Intel and Mobileye to develop self-driving cars. FCA said it plans to put autonomous car technology into production by 2021, matching a timeframe shared by rival companies that are also developing self-driving cars.