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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.

Go deeper

Oct 23, 2020 - Economy & Business

We're all guinea pigs for Tesla's latest self-driving tech

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Tesla is beta-testing its latest self-driving technology with a small group of early adopters, a move that alarms experts and makes every road user — including other motorists, pedestrians and cyclists — unwitting subjects in its ongoing safety experiment.

Why it matters: Tesla hailed the limited rollout of its "full self-driving" beta software as a key milestone, but the warnings on the car's touchscreen underscore the risk in using its own customers — rather than trained safety drivers — to validate the technology.

Trump's coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas resigns

Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty

Scott Atlas, a controversial member of the White House coronavirus task force, handed in his resignation on Monday, according to three administration officials who discussed Atlas' resignation with Axios.

Why it matters: President Trump brought in Atlas as a counterpoint to NIAID director Anthony Fauci, whose warnings about the pandemic were dismissed by the Trump administration. With Trump now fixated on election fraud conspiracy theories, Atlas' detail comes to a natural end.

Dave Lawler, author of World
2 hours ago - World

Assassination in Iran sets stage for tense final 50 days of Trump

The funeral ceremony in Tehran. Photo: Iranian Defense Ministry via Getty

Iranian leaders are weighing their response to the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, known as the father of Iran’s military nuclear program, who was given a state funeral Monday in Tehran.

The big picture: Iran has accused Israel of carrying out Friday’s attack, but senior leaders have suggested that they’ll choose patience over an immediate escalation that could play into the hands of the Israelis and the outgoing Trump administration.