The outspoken CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles [NYSE:FCAU] said in an interview that fully autonomous cars are about five years away from legal road use, not a couple of decades as others have suggested.

Sergio Marchionne, whose company is now working directly with Google to develop a self-driving version of its new Pacifica minivan, said the pace of development for autonomous cars has escalated to the point where such vehicles are not far from showrooms. 

“Each time it got better and better,” Marchionne told reporters gathered at the automaker's Windsor Assembly plant, including some from The New York Times. “It isn’t pie in the sky. People are talking about 20 years. I think we will have it in five years.”

FCA signed a partnership last week that will see it build 100 minivans to be used in Google's autonomous car development program. What really stands out about FCA's deal with Google is that the automaker's engineers will work alongside the tech firm's. Google's involvement with automakers has previously been limited to acquiring a vehicle from one and then retrofitting its autonomous car technology on its own.

Marchionne no doubt knows that General Motors Company [NYSE:GM] and ride-sharing agency Lyft are poised to test autonomous ride-sharing as early as next year. The FCA boss, however, was speaking more about offering autonomous cars directly to consumers.


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