Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Aurora announced on Monday that they have signed a memorandum of understanding for a deal to integrate Aurora’s self-driving system in FCA’s commercial vehicles.
It’s still early days so understandably neither company provided a time frame. It also isn’t clear which of FCA’s commercial vehicles would be fitted with the system.
Aurora calls its system the Aurora Driver. The system comprises the hardware, software and data services that help guide self-driving cars, and right now it’s being developed at Level 4 capability. This means it can fully function on its own, though only within set conditions.
Typically, Level 4 self-driving cars are limited to areas with sufficient map data, known as geo-fencing. The end goal is a Level 5 self-driving car, which will be able to function in all conditions expected of a human driver.
FCA has already worked closely with Aurora rival Waymo, with FCA supplying Waymo with Chrysler Pacifica minivans that are converted into self-driving cars and used in Waymo’s expanding fleet. With its new partnership with Aurora, another leader in the self-driving car space, it’s clear FCA is hedging its bets.
Unlike Waymo, Aurora doesn’t plan to offer a self-driving service. Instead the company wants to sell or license its Aurora Driver system to other firms. Aurora is making the system as flexible as possible to make it easier for automakers to build Aurora-Driver-equipped vehicles at scale. The system has already been fitted to sedans, SUVs, minivans, large commercial vehicles and class 8 trucks for testing purposes.
Aurora was only founded in 2016 but it’s already forged deals with major automakers including the Volkswagen Group, Hyundai, and now FCA. One of the founders, Chris Urmson, previously headed the Google Self-Driving Car Project, now Waymo. Another founder, Sterling Anderson, was in charge of development of Tesla’s Autopilot self-driving system before he quit to join Urmson in starting Aurora.