Fiat Chrysler partners with Aurora to develop self-driving commercial vansJune 10, 2019
The partnership will focus on integrating Aurora’s technology into FCA’s line of Ram Truck commercial vehicles, a portfolio that includes cargo vans and trucks. The deal could extend to FCA’s Fiat Professional brand as well, TechCrunch has learned.
The deal with Aurora aims to specifically develop and deploy self-driving commercial vehicles that could be used by any third party with a delivery-to-consumer need. For instance, once Aurora’s technology is integrated into its commercial vans, FCA could sell them to a third-party logistics company — like say, Amazon — that intends to use autonomous vehicles for deliveries.
Neither company disclosed financial terms of the deal.
The high cost of developing and bringing technology such as electrification and autonomous vehicles to market has prompted automakers, including FCA, to seek out partnerships and alliances, sometimes even with competitors.
In May, FCA proposed a 50-50 merger with French automaker Renault, arguing that it would create a more capital efficient enterprise that could develop global vehicle platforms, architectures, powertrains and technologies.
FCA has since withdrawn its merger offer. However, more partnerships are likely to emerge.
“As part of FCA’s autonomous vehicle strategy we will continue to work with strategic partners in this space to address the needs of consumers in a rapidly changing industry,” FCA CEO Mike Manley said in a statement.
FCA has an existing partnership with autonomous vehicle technology company Waymo, the former Google moonshot project that is now a business under Alphabet. These two relationships are tackling different aspects of autonomous vehicle technology — at least for now.
Two years ago, FCA said it would produce about 100 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans integrated with Waymo’s suite of self-driving hardware and software. Waymo uses these self-driving minivans for testing as well as for its Waymo One autonomous ride-hailing business in the Phoenix area. The autonomous vehicles used in the Waymo One service still have a human safety driver behind the wheel.
FCA and Waymo expanded on their relationship in 2018 with FCA announcing it would supply Waymo with up to 62,000 more Chrysler Pacifica minivans.
Unlike Waymo, Aurora has never indicated plans publicly to launch a robotaxi service. Instead, it’s focused on supplying and then integrating its full self-driving stack to companies hoping to deploy autonomous vehicles or services.
Aurora, founded in early 2017 by Sterling Anderson, Drew Bagnell and Chris Urmson, has integrated its technology into six vehicle platforms, including sedans, SUVs, minivans, a large commercial vehicle and a Class 8 truck.
Aurora is just a few months removed from announcing its hefty $530 million Series B round that was led by Sequoia Capital and included “significant investment” from Amazon and T. Rowe Price Associates. The round pushed Aurora’s valuation to more than $2.5 billion. Aurora announced a $90 million Series A round last February from Greylock Partners and Index Ventures, bringing its total raised to date to more than $620 million.
The company has offices in Palo Alto, San Francisco and Pittsburgh and previously announced partnerships with Volkswagen Group, Hyundai and Chinese electric vehicle startup Byton.