The move more than doubles Google’s existing robot car fleet. The development tasks will be divided between the two partners according to their expertise. Engineers from both companies will form a joint development team, based in the US state of Michigan. The tests are scheduled to start already in 2016. Initially the test drives will be conducted on Google’s private test area in California. At a later point in time, test drives on public roads are planned.
The agreement does not come as a surprise; in the past month, rumors circulated that Google is searching for a partner who provides the mechatronic platform for Google’s data-driven approach. For instance, Google was in talks with General Motors, but the agreement failed because of differences over the ownership of the resulting IP and of the data gathered in the project.
At several opportunities, Google has stressed that it does not intend to build cars. For FCA, the agreement is regarded as beneficial because through the move company gets access to autonomous driving technology; in terms of autonomous driving, FCA hitherto lags far behind leading players in this segment such as Audi, BMW, Daimler, Ford, or Tesla. These manufacturers however hesitate to cooperate with Google: They fear that they could lose their technology leadership to Google: In future vehicle generations the business model will be based heavily on the ownership of data.