Waymo expands autonomous driving partnership with Fiat Chrysler

Sergio Marchionne

Sergio MarchionneMore

The company plans to launch its self-driving service later this year, in which people can use an app to request a ride.

FCA shares rose 3.7 percent to $23.02 in midday trading. In addition to the ride service it intends to start, Waymo also expects to put its autonomous-driving technology into trucks and delivery vehicles.

FCA says it will supply Waymo's autonomous fleet with 62,000 Chrysler Pacifica minivans, a big leap from the 600 vehicles Waymo is now operating.

An Early Rider program has been in operation for several months now in Chandler, Arizona, with Waymo planning to make it publicly available later this year. Self-driving retail vehicles from Fiat Chrysler would be a first for the industry, although Tesla Inc. has sold cars with its Autopilot software, which offers limited levels of automation. Waymo is now the only company with a fleet of fully self-driving cars on public roads without human safety drivers at the wheel.

The expansion of the partnership between FCA and Waymo goes beyond growing the fleet. Waymo is now the only company allowed to operate a fleet of fully-autonomous vehicles without a safety driver and this promises to transform the ride-hailing sector. Waymo, not being a huge manufacturer of automobiles, has concentrated on developing a "driver" that can be installed in a variety of vehicles. Since 2009, Waymo has logged six million miles driven on public roads, five billion miles in simulated environments and run tests covering more than 20,000 types of driving scenarios.

The company also announced in March a strategic partnership with Jaguar Land Rover.

Last year, Waymo announced that safety drivers to take over in case of emergency are no longer needed, but that some employees may be remained during the early parts of the service. Around the time of the NY auto show this year, Waymo announced that it would add Jaguar Land Rover as a partner, using the forthcoming Jaguar I-Pace as a luxury platform for what Waymo calls its autonomous "driver".

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