Google and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles are doubling down on their self-driving partnership, adding about 100 more Pacifica Hybrid minivans to an autonomous fleet first announced in May, people familiar with the decision told Bloomberg.
Last month, the two companies announced the production of the initial 100 minivans, vehicles equipped with the technology developed by Waymo, the new company formed from the Google car project. Waymo plans to roughly double the number this year, said the people who asked not to be identified because the terms aren’t public.
Bloomberg News reported last month that Waymo plans to use the Chrysler vehicles in a commercial ride-sharing service, which the companies expect to launch later this year.
A Waymo spokesman declined to comment. A Fiat Chrysler spokesman in the U.S. didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Fiat Chrysler was the first automaker to cut a deal with Google, revealing a willingness to work with tech giants that some auto peers have resisted. In December, Waymo said it was in talks with Honda Motor Co., but didn’t reveal many details.
It’s unclear for now if Waymo would operate the ride-hailing service alone or with automaker partners. Google parent company Alphabet Inc. has put pressure on its new Waymo car division to find recurring revenue. About 90 percent of Alphabet’s revenue comes from digital advertising.
Automakers, too, are trying to expand beyond vehicle sales to add new revenue sources from auxiliary software and mobility services as self-driving technology upends traditional industry business models.
A Waymo ride-sharing service would compete with existing firms, like Uber Technologies Inc., Morgan Stanley analysts said in a recent report. A fully driverless car that is used a lot would reduce ride-sharing costs to 20 cents per vehicle mile from the current $1.50 per vehicle mile, the analysts estimated. Cars retrofitted with self-driving technology would pay for themselves in five years, thanks to lower insurance rates and higher productivity, they added. The report didn’t put a timeline on when full autonomy would arrive.
Waymo CEO John Krafcik, who joined Google in 2015 after stints at Ford Motor Co. and Hyundai Motor Co.’s U.S. operations, is set to deliver a keynote address Sunday at the Detroit auto show.