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Waymo partners with Fiat Chrysler (FCA) to make self-driving Ram vans

Fiat Chrysler has an exclusive deal to use Alphabet's Waymo autonomous driving technology for its commercial vehicles. FCA also plans to use the self-driving tech across its brands.

Ram ProMaster van at job site
Ram's ProMaster van line will be the first vehicle to benefit from this Waymo Level 4 self-driving partnership.

Autonomous vehicle development firm Waymo and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have been working together for a while now. Waymo's pilot program vans are based on the Chrysler Pacifica minivan, for example, but now that partnership is being taken to a new level, according to a joint announcement made by the companies on Wednesday.

FCA plans to use Waymo's Level 4 autonomous driving technology in future versions of the Ram ProMaster light commercial vehicles. In fact, FCA will be the Alphabet self-driving division's exclusive partner for developing L4 commercial vehicle tech. Beyond that, FCA has also declared that Waymo will now be its exclusive L4 partner across all its brands.

"Our now four-year partnership with Waymo continues to break new ground. Incorporating the Waymo Driver, the world's leading self-driving technology, into our Pacifica minivans, we became the only partnership actually deploying fully autonomous technology in the real world, on public roads. With this next step, deepening our relationship with the very best technology partner in this space, we're turning to the needs of our commercial customers by jointly enabling self-driving for light commercial vehicles, starting with the Ram ProMaster," FCA CEO Mike Manley said in a statement. "Adding Waymo's commitment to partner with us to deploy its L4 fully autonomous technology across our entire product portfolio, our partnership is setting the pace for the safe and sustainable mobility solutions that will help define the automotive world in the years and decades to come."

So what does all this mean, exactly? It's admittedly hard to say what it means in the short term. Reliable, commercially available L4 autonomy -- that is, full self-driving tech, but with a steering wheel that's selectable for manual control -- is still likely a long way off, even for Waymo. Adding in the complication of the massive merger that FCA and PSA Groupe (combined, they will be known as Stellantis) are undertaking, means that things could become more convoluted still though it's likely that the specific language of the partnership will allow for expansion to other brands.

This is a pretty bold move on the part of Fiat Chrysler, and it should be good business for Waymo, so we're excited to see what happens.

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