This collaboration with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is the first time we’ve worked directly with an automaker to create our vehicles. FCA will design the minivans so it’s easy for us to install our self-driving systems, including the computers that hold our self-driving software, and the sensors that enable our software to see what’s on the road around the vehicle. The minivan design also gives us an opportunity to test a larger vehicle that could be easier for passengers to enter and exit, particularly with features like hands-free sliding doors.
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Read between the lines, and the nuts and bolts of this deal become evident. Fiat Chrysler — which doesn’t seem to be working on any self-driving technology on its own — will leverage Google’s existing tech.
Google also gets to test its autonomous technology in mass-produced vehicles, which could help it leverage its technology for use in other models with other manufacturers. By getting a better idea of what’s necessary to turn self-driving cars into a plug-and-play program on the assembly line, Google may be a strong partner for other auto manufacturers.
This is more project than reality at this point, though Google is planning to have these autonomous minivans on the road by the end of the year. Don’t get too excited, though — they won’t be hitting the showroom floor, so you won’t be able to have one drive you off the lot just yet.