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Ram's Truck Future Might Anger Some Owners

Technology / Comments

Not like the truck maker has much of a choice.

If you can't beat them, join them. At least that seems to be the logic Fiat Chrysler is taking in regards to Silicon Valley because, in this day and age when cars are skewing more towards being tech products than mechanical offspring of the Henry Ford era, it's no longer enough to forge ahead without investing in driverless cars.

And now that FCA has backed out of a merger with Renault that would have helped expand its access to the latest autonomous technology, the Italian-American automaker has to find some way to ensure it can compete in the coming days when software will rule the road. So it went with its next best option, partnering with self-driving software startup Aurora for autonomous Ram and Fiat Professional brand vehicles, according to Automotive News Europe.

While FCA and Aurora have yet to announce the details of their partnership, including the financial workings of the deal, the automaker did say that the two companies would collaborate on bringing commercial vehicles with Level 4 autonomy (meaning they are fully driverless) to market within three to five years.

"As part of FCA's autonomous vehicle strategy, we will continue to work with strategic partners to address the needs of customers in a rapidly changing industry," said Mike Manley, Chief Executive Officer, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. "Aurora brings a unique skillset combined with advanced and purposeful technology that complements and enhances our approach to self-driving."

Though FCA's commercial division covers everything from police cars like the Dodge Durango Pursuit and Charger Pursuit models to heavy-duty trucks and delivery vans, the deal will most likely center around the latter type of vehicle.

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That's because delivery vehicles are the most obvious choice for autonomy given their increased need due to the rise of e-commerce. In fact, delivery is what Aurora is slowly becoming known for thanks to a recent funding round where the company raised $530 million, with Amazon being one big investor.

Even though FCA already has a partnership with Google's self-driving division, Waymo, that arrangement primarily focuses on delivering Chrysler Pacificas to the company rather than applying Google's software to FCA's cars. Its collaboration with Aurora signals one of the first times FCA is moving to incorporate autonomous technology into the vehicles it sells to customers. It's not too hard, after all, to see success in FCA's autonomous commercial vehicle division as a perfect segue to putting autonomous technology into its retail vehicles.