Fiat Chrysler is making some more moves in the tech world, meeting with Amazon and Uber earlier this week to talk self-driving. The automaker wants to provide the two companies with test cars, in the hope that it leads to further partnerships down the road.
It comes a month after Fiat partnered with Google’s self-driving efforts, sending 100 Chrysler Pacifica hybrids to Silicon Valley for testing.
Fiat would like to be the main supplier of Uber’s self-driving taxi fleet, which CEO Travis Kalanick is interested in establishing. The ridesharing app started testing customized Ford Fusion self-driving cars in Pittsburgh last month, and Fiat may supply Uber with additional cars.
According to Steve Jurvetson, a Tesla board member, Kalanick said that he is willing to purchase every single Tesla car once it has full automation capabilities. That’s a big deal, especially for automotive manufacturers that are struggling, like Fiat.
The Amazon talks are a bit different, Fiat is reportedly focused on deliveries. It wants to provide self-driving cars as a way for Amazon to complete the “last mile” of a delivery even quicker, and perhaps lower the cost of the delivery by removing the driver.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos recently spoke at the Code Conference about the lack of delivery options at peak times, stating that during holiday seasons Amazon needs much more than what’s currently available to manage all of the orders. Having a driverless fleet for purchase or rent could be a good way to get around the lack of availability.
From what we’ve seen, Amazon appears to be more interested in drones than self-driving cars as a means for last mile delivery. We may see multiple delivery services however, with drones used for small packages and self-driving cars for larger and more fragile items.
The Bloomberg report does say that the talks are preliminary, so we shouldn’t expect any announcements in the next few months.
Fiat will be into “hardware?”
Fiat is taking a different position to many automakers, which have started to test self-driving systems internally or purchase startups, in the case of General Motors, to build their portfolio.
While this may result in Fiat becoming nothing more than a hardware manufacturer, it may also stop the company from wasting billions trialling the technology and bringing it to market, instead becoming a supplier for future services that want autonomous vehicles.
That does bring up the question of what an automaker’s purpose is in the future. Will you purchase a car, lease it, or order it from apps like Uber and Lyft? All three are potential options and the lease and order option change the market dynamic for automakers tremendously.