Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Google are close to announcing an agreement to develop several dozen self-driving car prototypes, sourced have told Bloomberg.
The prototypes will be based on the Chrysler Pacifica minivan, and will be the first phase of a long-term campaign to create autonomous vehicles. FCA is planning to equip the new Pacifica, which will be available as a plug-in hybrid, with Google technology starting this year.
Google and FCA would remain free to cooperate in self-driving technology with other partners, sources said. An agreement could be signed as early as today, but Google and FCA declined to comment on the deal.
While rumors have been spread about other automakers, such as Ford, working with Google on self-driving cars, Fiat Chrysler appears to be the first to move forward on this alliance. Chrysler had been way behind other automakers in launching hybrid and electric vehicles. Earlier this year, FCA announced its first plug-in electric vehicle by launching the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid.
The Pacifica PHEV has a 16-kWh battery under the second-row floor that can be recharged in as little as two hours with 240-volt current. This works closely with a unique powertrain centered around 3.6-liter Atkinson Cycle Pentastar V6. FCA says it will be getting 30 miles on battery power in its plug-in hybrid system.
Google has run more than 1.4 million miles of tests on its own self-driving car prototypes. The company has been in discussions with various auto manufacturers about creating driverless car technologies together.
Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, who mentioned a possible partnership with Google in December, has been directly involved in talks with the California-based technology giant, sources said. Marchionne has been actively seeking corporate partners in recent years to cut product development costs. He plants on putting FCA in a strong position for a merger with another automaker by the time he steps down as CEO in 2018.