Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles has signed a memorandum of understanding to become the first automaker to join BMW, Intel, and Mobileye's alliance to develop a dedicated self-driving car platform, the automakers announced Wednesday.
Intel and BMW began work on a self-driving car platform last year and they intend to reveal a fully autonomous vehicle in 2021. BMW and Intel see FCA as a partner to accelerate the development process. FCA is a large North American automaker with a need for tech help.
The deal also allows engineers to work on the project outside of Germany. FCA has engineers in the U.S. and Italy, among other locales.
"In order to advance autonomous driving technology, it is vital to form partnerships among automakers, technology providers and suppliers," FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne said in a statement Wednesday. "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."
The self-driving car platform could eventually spawn small cars or big cars, according to the automakers. It will support Level 3 (highly automated) driving capabilities, and ultimately Levels 4 and 5 (completely automated) driving. But here's the even more interesting bit: BMW, Intel, Mobileye, and now FCA, say the platform could be used by multiple automakers "at the same time maintaining each automaker’s unique brand identities," according to the statement.
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Intel agreed to purchase Mobileye earlier this year in a $15.3 billion deal. Mobileye's original claim to fame was its EyeQ technology, which effectively allows self-driving cars to "see" the world around them. In addition, Intel purchased a 15-percent stake in digital mapping company HERE this past January. HERE is owned by Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW. With the purchase, Intel also agreed to collaborate on high-definition digital maps that self-driving cars can tap into to calculate routes.
The alliance plans to deploy 40 prototype self-driving cars this year, while Mobileye continues to compile data from its 100-strong fleet of Level 4 self-driving cars.