Fiat Chrysler Joins BMW-Intel-Mobileye Self-Driving Car Coalition

This appears to mark the first major alliance between two automakers on self-driving cars. 

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
Carlos Osorio—AP

In what seems to be the first major alliance between automakers on self-driving cars, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) will join the existing team of BMW, Intel, and Mobileye to further development the technology.

Under a memorandum of understanding signed by the automaker, FCA will bring engineering and technical resources to the table, including co-locating engineers with those of its new partners in Germany and other locations. FCA's relatively large sales volumes will also be an asset in commercializing the technology, a press release indicated.

FCA is the first automaker to sign on for what BMW, Intel, and Mobileye hope will be a brand-agnostic autonomous-driving platform that can be marketed to multiple automakers. The three companies announced the project in July 2016. Intel subsequently purchased Mobileye, and supplier Delphi joined the project as well.

That platform will enable SAE Level 3, Level 4, and Level 5 autonomous driving, "and can be used by multiple automakers around the world while maintaining their unique brand identities," the companies claim. On the SAE scale of autonomous driving, Level 0 represents a completely manual-operated car, while Level 5 represents a car with no provisions for a human driver at all.

The three original partners previously set the goal of putting their autonomous driving platform into production by 2021, the same year BMW plans to launch autonomous driving capabilities in its iNext sedan. At CES 2017 in January, BMW, Intel, and Mobileye announced plans to launch a fleet of 40 test cars by the end of the year. The FCA deal will not affect that plan, the companies said.

The web of autonomous driving partnerships is getting increasingly tangled. In addition to the 40-car test fleet being run in concert with BMW, and any potential collaboration with FCA, Intel and Mobileye plan to launch their own fleet of 100 prototype autonomous cars. Meanwhile, FCA has an existing partnership with Waymo that includes supplying a fleet of autonomous Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans.

"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. Still, it's interesting to see so much apparent cooperation and openness in the normally competitive and secretive auto industry.