Will Google's Self-Driving Car Be a Fiat?


Red Google's self-driving car

For getting Google-powered autonomous cars onto roads, it seems that the self-driving wheels are in full motion.

In addition to this week’s formation of a law-lobbying, Google-led autonomous vehicle coalition of auto and tech companies, there are now rumors coming out that Google and Fiat Chrysler are in talks to team up in some sort of self-driving “technical partnership.” The reports come from both the Wall Street Journal and the blog and say that the near “final” negotiations between the companies could result in Google powering an autonomous version of the Fiat Pacifica minivan.

The scoop on also explains that the potential deal between the two companies has been in the works for months and, beyond creating a self-driving minivan one-off for the Fiat brand, could give Google access to solid vehicle manufacturing resources in the future – something it will need if it wants to ever make, say, a Google Car.

Google's self-driving car.

Tony Avelar / Associated Press

The gumdrop-looking Google car that’s been test-driving itself around the country for the last year-ish is built by Google, but any consumer version of it would probably need a little more manufacturing muscle behind it; that’s, ostensibly, what Fiat would provide.

Parallels could be drawn between this rumored automotive deal and ones that Google has made with mobile device manufacturers; unlike its Chrome Pixel laptop or Chromecast, which are devices the company manufacturers itself, Google’s Nexus-branded smartphones and tablets are factory-made by companies like Samsung, HTC, Asus, and LG.

If Fiat, known for making cost-conscious vehicles, has indeed been in talks with Google about building a smarter car for itself, then its CEO, Sergio Marchionne, wasn’t bluffing when he told reporters this month that he’ll “copy” the Tesla Model 3 within “12 months” if it sells well. Fiat makes an electric car, the Fiat 500e, but it’s not nearly as technologically witty as a Tesla. And it certainly doesn’t offer anything like Tesla’s Autopilot self-driving feature.

A “technical partnership” with Google could, at the very least, provide Fiat vehicles with an autopilot function. And - hey, Tesla – it would probably even be one that can make turns!

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