The 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee may be Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' first mass-market vehicle available to buyers with Level 2 self-driving tech, company executives announced on Friday.
The do-it-all Jeep will lead the automaker's first significant retail foray into self-driving cars, albeit a few years behind competitors.
FCA officials outlined their strategy for self-driving cars and included a slow timeline to rollout Level 2 and 3 vehicles to consumers. Levels 4 and 5 will predominately be used on ride-sharing vehicles, which the company outlined as expensive—but profitable.
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For now, Jeep is calling its 2020 Grand Cherokee "Level 2+" that the company says will change lanes without driver input. The system will default back to driver control if necessary, similar to Tesla's Autopilot, which is also a Level 2 system.
A Level 2 Jeep Grand Cherokee may arrive in 2020—and may be within the current generation—and will brake, accelerate, steer, and change lanes on long highway drives. Level 3 cars, which can drive fully on their own in certain situations but still require a driver to be ready to take over, will follow shortly around 2021, the company said.
To lay the groundwork for the company's self-driving push, FCA will launch a new telematics service next year to provide connectivity in its cars. Initially, it'll connect to FCA's service platform and it will be able to integrate into other services, perhaps ride-sharing services such as Uber.
The telematics service will work with the sensors, cameras, and lidar systems needed to enable self-driving cars later. FCA detailed at least 30 different sensors needed for Level 4 self-driving systems, including two "brains" needed for automotive-grade redundancies.
Waymo self-driving prototype
FCA will use a small army of applications to power its self-driving push, including a recently expanded partnership with Alphabet's Waymo, and existing partnerships with BMW and Aptiv. The last company will lead FCA's initial retail push, while the partnership with BMW will focus on Level 3 autonomy, according to the automaker's presentation.
While Waymo will use the automaker's Chrysler Pacifica for self-driving tests, including up to 62,000 vans around the U.S. in a recently announced deal, a Waymo system for consumers may be a ways into the future. FCA said it was beginning discussions with Waymo to bring to market a fully self-driving car, but didn't expand on that partnership further.
FCA officials said that the high cost of developing fully autonomous cars—perhaps Level 5 cars—could reach as high as $30,000 per car initially, and drop to $10,000 later. Even at $30,000, the cost could be a boon to large ride-sharing companies as displacing human drivers for these services could cut significant overhead. FCA estimated 70 percent of ride-sharing services costs were to employ drivers.
We'll be updating this story as more information from FCA becomes available.