The Chrysler-Google Car

The huge news today in the self-driving car world is that Chrysler and Google have inked a deal to build self-driving cars together.

Or maybe not quite. The New York Times reports that, “Google said it would expand its testing of autonomous vehicles by installing its technology in a fleet of minivans made by Fiat Chrysler.”

That quote sounds more mundane.

This raises a couple of horse-race questions and one larger ecosystem question.

How much does this help Google?

It helps Google.

I’m not sure that Chrysler is specifically a great fit, nor am I sure that they’re a poor fit. It seems like if it weren’t Chrysler, it would be another car company. Perhaps partnering with an American-based manufacturer will help Google politically.

That said, this is a step forward, but maybe not a giant leap. 100 test vehicles is a great start, but it’s still a long way from a production model sold to consumers.

How much does this help Chrysler?

Hopefully it helps Chrysler.

FCA, as the company is known, has had less autonomous vehicle activity underway than many other manufacturers, so this puts them in the game.

But my mind immediately makes the comparison to mobile phone manufacturers, and here the record is not so promising. HTC was the first company to use Google software on its phones, and since then LG has produced Google’s Nexus line. In neither case has the Google partnership set the company up for huge success. Rather, Samsung has dominated the Android market.

How much does this help move forward autonomous vehicle technology?

Time will tell, but I view this as incremental, so far. If Google and Chrysler are able to work together mass-produce Level 4 autonomous vehicles on an accelerated schedule, that would be amazing.

But that’s a big if and so far it looks like small steps.

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