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Fiat Chrysler is the latest to partner with autonomous-tech specialist Aurora

Collaborations between established automakers and autonomous technology startups are happening everywhere you look these days. The latest one is between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and Aurora, a Silicon Valley startup that’s been gaining much attention of late.

The partnership, announced by the two companies on Sunday, June 9, will focus on the development of self-driving vehicles for a variety of commercial services that include “logistics, transit, and other use cases,” according to a statement.

FCA and Aurora declined to get any more specific, though their comments suggest a range of possibilities, from robo-taxi services similar to those being developed by Waymo and Lyft, to shopping deliveries using self-driving trucks.

News of the deal — the financial terms of which have not been revealed — comes just a few days after FCA announced it was pulling out of merger talks with French automaker Renault, ending hopes of a tie-up that would have given FCA access to autonomous technology development being undertaken by Renault partner Nissan.

FCA boss Mike Manley said that its agreement with Aurora is another example of its willingness to work with strategic partners “to address the needs of consumers in a rapidly changing industry.”

Manley added that Aurora brings with it “a unique skillset combined with advanced and purposeful technology that complements and enhances our philosophy on self-driving.”

Sterling Anderson, Aurora co-founder and chief product officer, said his team was “thrilled” about the deal and looked forward to developing various commercial solutions with the automaker.

Plenty of interest

Aurora was launched in 2016 by experienced players in autonomous-car projects operated by the likes of Google (now Waymo) and Uber, as well as Tesla, whose vehicles incorporate Autopilot, a system that offers drivers a degree of autonomy behind the wheel.

The company has already attracted plenty of interest, with Volkswagen and Hyundai, among others, signing partnership deals geared toward the development and testing of autonomous vehicles.

Amazon, too, took part in a $530 million funding round for Aurora earlier this year, perhaps not a surprise considering the online shopping giant’s ongoing interest in not only drone delivery, but also wheel-based delivery robots, and autonomous trucks for transporting goods.

FCA, meanwhile, has already been cultivating partnerships in the self-driving space, providing Waymo with hybrid Pacifica minivans kitted out with autonomous technology for testing on public roads, as well as for limited robo-taxi services. Last year Waymo ordered 62,000 of the minivans, though it’s yet to reveal how and where it will deploy such a large number of driverless vehicles.

In another demonstration of its growing interest in autonomous technology, FCA last year announced it was investing $30 million in a new research facility in Michigan aimed at developing related systems.

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Trevor Mogg
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Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
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