FCA CEO Marchionne Speaks About EVs and Autonomous Vehicles

FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne recently urged caution on EVs and said that autonomous cars could take longer than planned.

Marchionne was speaking at the University of Trento, located in the northern Italian town of Trento. He was there to receive an honorary doctorate in industrial engineering. Il Sole 24 Ore reported that Marchionne used the opportunity to talk about both electric cars and about the future of autonomous vehicles.

FCA, along with Google spin-off Waymo, have been developing a fleet of autonomous cars based on an order of 100 Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans.

“We believe that autonomous guidance will be a reality in a decade and that advanced guidance systems will play a crucial role in preparing lawmakers, consumers and businesses for a world where control of the car will be passed into the hands of the car itself,” Marchionne said.

Marchionne said that by 2021, level three automation could make it to the mass market. Level three means that the car can make actual driving decisions – like changing lanes and passing a slower vehicle instead of braking – but still need a person around to take control in situations like missing lane markers, or bad weather. Marchionne said that the company’s autonomous vehicle tech would arrive in the Maserati brand first. The first of those features could arrive as early as next year.

Levels four and five, complete autonomy in a set area and complete autonomy anywhere will take longer.

“It does not depend on producers, but on missing infrastructure,” Marchionne said.

That infrastructure includes things like adequate road signage, as well as more consistent lane markings. Currently, road signs and their positioning can vary slightly from town to town and state to state. Lane markings can be inconsistent and even disappear completely from roads in snow belt states for much of the year. Those issues, plus full mapping of the road network, are necessary for level five.

SEE ALSO: Sergio Marchionne Doesn’t See Any Money In The Tesla Model 3

As far as the future of electric vehicles, Marchionne remains skeptical.

“This is a project on which FCA works, but it is not the solution for the future,” he said, adding “we are working on all forms of electric cars, but we can not ignore some important elements.”

Marchionne used the Fiat 500e as an example, pointing out that it was launched five years ago, but that the company loses $20,000 per car they sell. Marchionne called a full-scale EV launch an act of masochism.

It’s not the first time the FCA CEO has expressed that he may not believe in the future of EVs. Marchionne also talked about EV life cycles, and the energy used to charge the vehicles.

“Before thinking that electric vehicles are the solution, we have to consider all the life cycle of these cars, since the emissions of an electric car when energy is produced from fossil fuels are equivalent to those of another type of fuel car,” Marchionne said.

That EVs produce as much to pollution as conventional cars is an old argument, but one that has frequently been debunked. While a charge based purely on coal-powered electricity could be more polluting, no grids have 100 percent coal power. Many peer-reviewed studies have shown that EVs do impact the environment less overall.

Il Sole 24 Ore 


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