Jul 22, 2020 - Economy

Waymo and Fiat Chrysler team up on automated delivery trucks

Image of Ram ProMaster van

FCA's Ram ProMaster van will be the first to receive Waymo's self-driving technology under a new commercial vehicles agreement between the two companies. Photo courtesy of FCA.

Waymo's self-driving technology will soon be available in small commercial trucks, not just robo-taxi minivans, under a new agreement with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Why it matters: Stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus pandemic have highlighted the exploding opportunity for automated delivery, even as robo-taxis seem further away. Waymo and many other self-driving tech developers are shifting their focus to prioritize the commercial trucking market.

Driving the news: Waymo and FCA announced an expansion of their existing partnership on Wednesday with important benefits for both companies.

  • The Waymo "driver" — the moniker used to describe its self-driving technology — will be integrated into FCA’s light commercial vehicles, starting with its Ram ProMaster van.
  • Those self-driving commercial trucks will be deployed by Waymo's new Via delivery business and potentially "a broad range of global commercial customers," the companies said.
  • FCA noted that Waymo will also deploy its technology across the carmaker's lineup, including personally owned self-driving cars.
  • The deal will include PSA Group, the French parent of Peugeot, which is merging with FCA under the new corporate name, Stellantis.

Context: Waymo has been using Chrysler Pacifica minivans to develop and test its self-driving technology for several years and now has more than 600 deployed, including in its fledgling Waymo One ride-hailing service, in suburban Phoenix.

The intrigue: It's unclear how the exclusive deal with Waymo will affect FCA's existing agreement with rival Aurora Innovation to develop and deploy self-driving commercial vehicles.

  • Meanwhile, FCA continues to work with BMW and Intel's Mobileye on highly automated technology that would enable limited features like extended, hands-off highway driving.
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