Waymo and Fiat Chrysler begin work on autonomous Ram ProMaster vans
Through its years-long partnership with Waymo, Fiat Chrysler (FCA) has taken an active role in the development of self-driving technology, and is now expanding the scope of its efforts to include vehicles of a slightly larger footprint. The two companies have today announced they will build on this partnership, with Waymo to now work exclusively the Italian-American automaker on the development of self-driving light commercial vans, with the Ram ProMaster to serve as the initial testbed.
Back in 2016, Chrysler provided Waymo with 100 Pacifica Hybrid minivans specifically for the purposes of testing and developing its self-driving systems. With millions of miles worth of testing now under its belt, the Alphabet subsidiary has gradually improved the capabilities of its autonomous systems, with the most recent version able to spot debris and pedestrians hundreds of meters away.
This fifth-generation system is called Waymo Driver, and Waymo and FCA will now seek to integrate this technology into the Ram ProMaster van. It is hoped this exercise will help them flesh out and overcome the complexities of adapting autonomous vehicle tech to light commercial vehicles, with a view to applying it to the world of goods delivery services.
“Today, we're expanding our partnership with FCA with the Waymo Driver as the exclusive Level 4 autonomy solution for this global automotive company,” says Waymo CEO John Krafcik. “Together, we'll introduce the Waymo Driver throughout the FCA brand portfolio, opening up new frontiers for ride-hailing, commercial delivery and personal-use vehicles around the world."
Level 4 autonomy describes a self-driving system that can control the vehicle full-time, under the right circumstances, with humans only needing to intervene if it encounters something it can’t handle. Today’s expansion of the agreement also sees Waymo become FCA’s exclusive partner for Level 4 autonomous technology, with a commitment to deploy these systems across its entire vehicle fleet.
“With this next step, deepening our relationship with the very best technology partner in this space, we're turning to the needs of our commercial customers by jointly enabling self-driving for light commercial vehicles, starting with the Ram ProMaster," says FCA CEO Mike Manley. "Adding Waymo's commitment to partner with us to deploy its Level 4 fully autonomous technology across our entire product portfolio, our partnership is setting the pace for the safe and sustainable mobility solutions that will help define the automotive world in the years and decades to come."