Uber in Talks With Fiat Chrysler Over Self-Driving Car Partnership

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Ride hailing company Uber has held talks with Fiat Chrysler about a potential partnership involving self-driving car technology, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The discussions are reported to be at a preliminary stage and a deal is yet to be confirmed, cautioned people familiar with the matter.

Chrysler Pacifica Minivan

Google uses Chrysler Pacifica Minivans in its self-driving initiative (Image: Chrysler)

Chrysler is believed to be just one of several automobile makers that Uber has been in talks with in recent weeks, amid a "frenzy" of global alliances as the role of technology in transportation increases.

Uber's desire to seek new partners follows Apple's $1 billion investment in Chinese ride hailing startup Didi Chuxing last month, while similar partnerships have occurred between the likes of General Motors and Lyft earlier this year.

Also last month, Fiat Chrysler said it was working with Google to redesign the 2017 Pacifica Hybrid minivan and integrate its computers, sensors and software for testing purposes, in the same way that Google's own self-driving cars are currently a purely experimental initiative.

Uber began its own autonomous driving project last year after hiring several robotics researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and opening its Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh. Testing has begun in that city and Uber plans to incorporate self-driving vehicles into its fleet by 2020.

In related news yesterday, speaking at Alphabet's stockholder meeting, executive chairman Eric Schmidt responded to an audience question about when self-driving cars might be an everyday reality on public roads.

It’s very hard to know. The consensus I think within the company is that it’s some years, not decades, but it is very much dependent on regulation. And it also depends on where you are. It’s obviously a great deal easier to do this in areas that, for example, have ample parking.

Google has previously stated that its self-driving project will free up parking space in congested areas because such cars can park further away and come to pick up passengers, although The Verge notes the irony of its chosen testing grounds in Mountain View, Austin, Kirkland, and Phoenix, where parking is far more available than in big cities like New York.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently commented on Apple's project to develop its own car, codenamed "Titan", claiming that any such vehicle was unlikely to hit full-scale production or be ready for shipping before 2020, a prediction that is somewhat in line with earlier rumors that a 2020 timeframe for the car's launch is the most realistic prospect.

The bulk of Apple's car research and development is thought to be taking place in secretive buildings in Sunnyvale, California, where late night "motor noises" have been heard.

Related Roundup: Apple Car

Top Rated Comments

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57 months ago
Uber is one of those company who's CEO is so arrogant and callous (think Ryanair) that I would like his company to crash and burn. I think he's one of the reasons Apple partnered with Didi instead. To win in a the market because you work hard and make smart decisions is one thing, but to win at all costs and at the expense of anyone and anything is not good at all. He has no values. We need to get behind companies who stand for something and give a damn—I think it matters.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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57 months ago

Is it just me or does this whole self driving car thing seem like science fiction? Is it really possible? I know there are people who say it is, but what about obstacles like animals crossing the road, etc.?

That's why there are proximity sensors.

Firstly, I see no fun in buying a self driving car. I enjoy driving and I would think most drivers do. Secondly, companies like Uber are really showing just how fast the world is approaching large scale unemployment where machines/robots/automation replace people. The profit of this will remain with these large corporations who will continue to get tax cuts for the purpose of investment, only to invest in more automation. At this rate, we could be 10 years off an irreparable GFC. Or maybe I'm overreacting.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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57 months ago

That's why there are proximity sensors.

Firstly, I see no fun in buying a self driving car. I enjoy driving and I would think most drivers do. Secondly, companies like Uber are really showing just how fast the world is approaching large scale unemployment where machines/robots/automation replace people. The profit of this will remain with these large corporations who will continue to get tax cuts for the purpose of investment, only to invest in more automation. At this rate, we could be 10 years off an irreparable GFC. Or maybe I'm overreacting.

It will obviously be years before this happens, but I don't believe the up and coming generations feel the same way about driving a car. It's expensive to buy, own and maintain a car, especially in a big city where a lot of young people live. I'm in my mid 40's and I hate driving. I've been fortunate to not have to drive to a job for the last decade. I realize that puts me in the minority, but between public transportation and telecommuting, self driving cars is the next logical extension. I realize this doesn't help people who drive for a living such as truckers and taxi drivers, but this is all part of adaptation and progress. Just my two cents FWIW.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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57 months ago
Seems to be a lot of fear in this thread. I suppose that's natural with a new technology. Are you frightened to get on an airplane though? Sure they have pilots sitting there but other than takeoff and landing (and we could talk about that aspect too) modern commercial airplanes fly themselves. I realize airplanes aren't dodging cats and kids but the technology is getting better (for cars) and a car won't fall out of the sky if there's a malfunction. We can build redundancy and monitoring into these systems and make them highly robust. Remember that today Humans are more often the weak link than equipment failure in vehicles. How often do you hear about an accident due to steering failing or ABS sensors locking up? Humans get distracted, humans get drunk, humans don't follow the protocols (laws) of the road.

Other thoughts I saw:

"driving is fun" - I'm sure there are many people that think that way but I'd expect the majority don't think that about their commute. There's likely opportunity for "track days" or the like where people can take their excitement of driving. True motor heads will likely hate that but I think there's a larger market for people to spend their commute time doing something other than controlling a 2000+ pound machine.

"my driver can break the rules" - Autonomous and connected cars will be able to push the entire system to greater efficiency than individual drivers were able to even for those breaking the laws. Spaces between vehicles can shrink as reaction times decrease due to networked behaviors. Decreased need for reaction time can also increase overall speed. Networked communication can remove red lights altogether.

"mass unemployment will destroy us" - Should we really keep tasks around just so people can feel like they're doing something? I currently have a door stop holding my door open, should we somehow block that technology so I can hire someone to stand there and keep my door where I want it? The buggy whip example is so tired I don't even have to do more than just reference it. Autonomous vehicles more than other forms of automation seem to be inspiring a wave of neo-ludditism. I'll grant you that autonomous vehicles have the potential to eliminate many more jobs than buggy whips did (I've read estimates of 10 million) but there's a lot of good that can come from that too. Pooling vehicles means that a huge investment many of us make (typically second only to our home) that sits idle 90%+ of the time won't have to be made. Traffic congestion can reduce. Parking is no longer an issue when there's just a swarm of autonomous vehicles moving onto their next ride. All that valuable real estate in the heart of major cities can now become additional housing or even green space. Pollution decreases as these vehicles no longer start and stop as often and many never even have to get made. That still leaves a question of what do we do with 10MM people who used to earn money for moving a vehicle around. In the near-term most would retrain to do something else but let's take this to its logical conclusion of nearly full automation of everything (the anesthesia bot example should be of more concern to people with this fear as it goes beyond menial skilled labor). Society would have to reshape and I believe it would. If automation takes over all sectors of the market then it also drives costs significantly down across the board. Providing all members of society with all of their needs - beyond just basics for survival - becomes easier, trivial even. Having an economy so automated that all of our needs are provided for regardless of whether we have tasks assigned to us daily in order obtain tokens we can exchange for goods and services frees everyone up to follow their passions rather than labor on something to live. Call it a post-work economy or Star Trek economy of what have you but I believe that's possible. Automation doesn't frighten me in the least, I'm excited to see what the future brings.

edit: typos and clarification
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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57 months ago

That's why there are proximity sensors.

Firstly, I see no fun in buying a self driving car. I enjoy driving and I would think most drivers do. Secondly, companies like Uber are really showing just how fast the world is approaching large scale unemployment where machines/robots/automation replace people. The profit of this will remain with these large corporations who will continue to get tax cuts for the purpose of investment, only to invest in more automation. At this rate, we could be 10 years off an irreparable GFC. Or maybe I'm overreacting.

I believe you're dead-on.

As for myself: I'd always hail the cab that has an actual driver over a self-driving car.
Why? Well, quite honestly speaking: the cab driver will actually speed a little if needed or at least not try to stay at exact 30mph.
We're always complaining about cab drivers, but in the end, when we need them and we need them to drop us off somewhere in a rush we're glad they are risking their license for us.

Mind you, I'm not condoning unsafe driving and speeding, but unfortunately the real world doesn't always wait for us either.

Glassed Silver:mac
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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57 months ago

That's why there are proximity sensors.

I have yet to own a vehicle that hasn't had the reversing sensors go on the fritz at some point or a volumetric alarm sensor miss-behave.

Sure they are bound to be using better and more complex technology, but still the idea of an error happening at 50+ mph is frankly terrifying.

That is before you even get into all the "what-if" scenarios that can occur on a drive. Next time you are out and something occurs, like a bird flying across the front of your car, or a child steps out off the pavement whilst a guy on a motorcycle is coming in the opposite direction, try to imagine how a computer that has been programmed to react in a certain way to certain things, might handle such events.

We have automated, unmanned trains on rails, and they don't run correctly 100% of the time.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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