Alphabet, Fiat Chrysler strike deal for self-driving minivan prototypes

Google & Fiat Chrysler partnership

After years of developing and testing self-driving cars, Google-parent Alphabet has signed its first deal with an established automaker to build self-driving vehicles.

The tech giant is forming a partnership with Fiat Chrysler that will initially focus on making self-driving minivan prototypes. There are no plans to sell the self-driving vehicles, though; the two sides are working together to build vehicles for testing.

Fiat Chrysler will make about 100 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans for Google to use as test vehicles.

For Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, the partnership catapults the automaker to the front of the pack in the race to build and sell self-driving vehicles. Over the past two years, as competitors including General Motors and Ford publicly discussed their success developing autonomous-drive technology, Fiat Chrysler has been relatively quiet.

"The experience both companies gain will be fundamental to delivering automotive technology solutions that ultimately have far-reaching consumer benefits," he said in a statement.

Earlier this year, when asked why his company is not doing more R&D on self-driving cars, Marchionne dismissed the idea Fiat Chrysler would be left behind when it comes to incorporating the technology.

Since first demonstrating its self-driving technology in a modified Lexus in 2010, Google has logged more than 1.5 million miles testing self-driving cars in four states.

Over that time, Google has recorded 17 minor accidents involving the vehicles. Those states — California, Arizona, Texas and Washington — allow Google test drivers to operate the autonomous-drive vehicles while constantly monitoring the vehicles' performance.

This is developing news. Check back for updates.