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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.

4 hours ago - Health

Biden says it's "not the time to relax" after touring vaccination site

President Biden speaking after visiting a FEMA Covid-19 vaccination facility in Houston on Feb. 26. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that "it's not the time to relax" coronavirus mitigation efforts and warned that the number of cases and hospitalizations could rise again as new variants of the virus emerge.

Why it matters: Biden, who made the remarks after touring a vaccination site in Houston, echoed CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who said earlier on Friday that while the U.S. has seen a recent drop in cases and hospitalizations, "these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic."

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Most COVID-19 survivors can weather risk of reinfection, study says — "Twindemic" averted as flu reports plummet amid coronavirus crisis
  2. Vaccine: FDA advisory panel endorses J&J COVID vaccine for emergency use — About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says — New data reignites the debate over coronavirus vaccine strategy.
  3. Economy: What's really going on with the labor market.
  4. Local: All adult Minnesotans will likely be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by summer — Another wealthy Florida community receives special access to COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.