Fiat Chrysler (FCA) has become the latest automaker to join the BMW-led alliance for developing self-driving cars.
BMW and its partners, Intel and Mobileye, said FCA would bring engineering and other expertise to the deal, paving the way to creating an industry-wide autonomous car platform which other carmakers could adopt.
According to Reuters, FCA’s inclusion into the alliance intensifies a race by carmakers and technology companies to develop ‘Robotaxis’ which can be called up via smartphone and paid for by the minute.
The Italian automaker plans to put autonomous car technology into production by 2021, matching a timeframe shared by rival companies who are also developing self-driving cars.
Fiat’s CEO Sergio Marchionne has long argued that automakers must merge in order to survive the prohibitively high costs of making more technologically advanced vehicles. He said last April that FCA was looking for new partners in self-driving development because “banking all of our solutions on one possible outcome is going to be disastrous.”
The automaker is already a member of a separate alliance headed by Alphabet Inc’s self-driving unit Waymo to develop self-driving cars based on Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans.
According to global consulting firm McKinsey, the market for such self-driving cabs could be worth $2 trillion by 2030, as younger customers abandon car ownership in favor of a pay-per-use mobility service.
Autonomous cars will allow carmakers to disrupt the taxi market which is run by fleet operators and ride-hailing firms. Without having to pay drivers, ride-hailing could become more cost effective and compete against other forms of transport including buses.
Ride-hailing services, which make up around 33 percent of the global taxi market, could grow eightfold to $285 billion by 2030, once autonomous robotaxis are in operation, reports Goldman Sachs.
Image credits and content: Brett Carlsen for The New York Times/Reuters