Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is joining forces with BMW and Intel to develop self-driving car technology, the company announced on Wednesday. FCA is joining an existing alliance between BMW and Intel that also included Mobileye, the self-driving technology company Intel announced it was acquiring in March.
FCA is the smallest of Detroit’s Big Three automakers, and its approach to the self-driving car revolution has been less ambitious than rivals GM and Ford. GM paid $1 billion for self-driving car startup Cruise last year and is hoping to develop its own self-driving car technology. Ford invested $1 billion in the self-driving car startup Argo AI earlier this year and has also opened a technology subsidiary in Silicon Valley.
By contrast, FCA seems content to rely more on partners to supply the self-driving technology it will need to make its vehicles competitive in the coming decade.
“In order to advance autonomous driving technology, it is vital to form partnerships among automakers, technology providers and suppliers,” FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne wrote in Wednesday’s announcement.
FCA already has an existing partnership with Waymo, Google’s self-driving car subsidiary, to supply hundreds of minivans for Waymo’s pilot project in Phoenix. And now it’s linking up with a competitor, BMW, to develop what it hopes will become an industry-standard suite of autonomous vehicle technologies.
There’s no time to lose. Waymo is already rolling out hundreds of vehicles to test its service with real customers in Phoenix, suggesting that the company may not be far from launching a commercial service. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said the company is about two years away from fully self-driving vehicles. Ford has vowed to release a vehicle with no steering wheel or pedals by 2021.
FCA will contribute engineering resources to help BMW and Intel develop self-driving car technology. But FCA also brings more prosaic resources to the table. FCA touted the company’s “significant sales volumes, geographic reach and long-time experience in North America” as a key asset FCA brings to the table, complementing the German BMW’s strength outside the United States.
Fiat Chrysler has been struggling financially and has been looking for a buyer for the last two years. Recent rumors have suggested that the company might be scooped up by Chinese investors.