Fiat Chrysler Joins BMW-Led Self-Driving Car Tech Alliance

By Chester Dawson Features Dow Jones Newswires

Fiat Chrysler said Wednesday it is joining a BMW-led consortium to develop self-driving car technology, a move that comes more than a year after the group was formed with an aim of producing fully automated vehicles by 2021.

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BMW AG and Intel Corp. launched the cross-industry partnership in July of 2016, along with Israeli car-camera software provider Mobileye NV, which Intel purchased earlier this year. The companies are seeking to create an industry standard for future fleets of autonomous vehicles.

The decision by Fiat Chrysler, which previously outsourced its self-driving program to Google's parent company Alphabet Inc., is the latest sign it is ready to embrace next-generation technology. The company's chief executive has been skeptical of auto industry efforts to promote autonomously driven and electric-powered vehicles.

But last month CEO Sergio Marchionne said Fiat Chrysler's Maserati luxury sports brand would electrify half of its vehicles' powertrains by the early 2020s. He also signaled a willingness to collaborate with more parties on self-driving car technology.

"Joining this cooperation will enable FCA to directly benefit from the synergies and economies of scale that are possible when companies come together with a common vision and objective," CEO Sergio Marchionne said in a statement issued Wednesday.

FCA's move follows Delphi Automotive PLC and Continental AG, two top global automotive component suppliers who signed up with the consortium in May and June, respectively.

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The alliance is working to integrate hardware, software and communication protocols for self-driving cars. It plans to start a pilot program involving 40 test vehicles by the end of the year.

But the auto industry has yet to coalesce around any one framework for developing and deploying autonomous vehicles.

A rival group formed in April by German auto maker Daimler AG and auto components supplier Robert Bosch GmbH plans to bring its own fully automated driving standard to urban areas by early next decade. Companies such as Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. have their own self-driving car programs.

Intel competitor Nvidia Corp. has autonomous technology partnerships with several automotive companies, including including Audi AG, Tesla Inc. and Toyota Motor Corp.

Alphabet unit Waymo has agreed to purchase 600 Chrysler Pacifica minivans for testing its self-driving technology, and the two companies have a team of engineers collaborating on the project. But on a conference call with financial analysts last month, Mr. Marchionne said FCA is open to automated driving technology partnerships with others as well.

"We need to be ready to collaborate with as many people as we can find," he said.

--Ted Greenwald contributed to this article

Write to Chester Dawson at chester.dawson@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 16, 2017 04:14 ET (08:14 GMT)