Fiat Chrysler Says to Expect Semi-Autonomous, Electric ‘Portal’ Within Two Years – Government Technology
(TNS) — While Fiat Chrysler is charging ahead with a deeper partnership with Google’s Waymo, that’s not the company’s only self-driving strategy.
Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne told Wall Street analysts in a conference call Wednesday that the automaker has the capability to produce the Chrysler Portal — a semi-autonomous electric minivan it revealed in January — within the next two years.
The automaker’s futuristic Portal, which was unveiled as a concept vehicle at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, would be an ambitious effort to capture a slice of the emerging autonomous vehicle.
Marchionne agreed that the vehicle could be released in the next year or two and touted the automaker’s other major autonomous driving effort, its partnership with Waymo, formerly known as Google’s self-driving car project.
Both efforts are big steps for a company often tagged as a laggard in the connected and autonomous vehicle race.
Marchionne said he was very encouraged by Waymo’s program to put consumers in the Phoenix area in self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrids to try out the vehicles under everyday driving conditions.
The automaker said Tuesday it would produce 500 additional Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans for Waymo. Waymo said those minivans will be used for the early-rider program.
Marchionne was willing to enter into a partnership with Waymo even though a number of other automakers passed on the chance to form a partnership with the company.
“Because what I think Waymo is capable of doing is leaning on all the work that Goole has done on autonomous vehicles,” Marchionne said. “I think they are going to be substantially ahead of everyone else out there.
Marchionne also touted the potential of Google Waymo partnership.
“This is the kind of exploration that needs to go on. There’s going to be no ready-made solution in the next three years that will effectively exhaust all possible optionalities in this, so we need to play,” he said. “And the more we can play, the better we’re going to feel at the end of the day.”
He also said the industry would be better off sticking to viable autonomous vehicles rather than flying taxis, a reference to reports that flying taxis could be a reality in the next few years.
But Marchionne noted that the automaker can’t totally depend on its partnership with Waymo as the industry works developing autonomous vehicles, saying the Portal offers another option.
“I think banking all of our solutions on one possible outcome is going to be disastrous,” he said.
The company says the Portal was created by millennials for millennials, touting it as a vehicle that can be upgraded as their lives change and that millennials “expect seamless integration of technology in and out of the vehicle, including to home and other devices.”
“Millennials have become the largest demographic. In the next 10-plus years, most will be at a point in
their life where they will begin to start or will have started a family; 75% of all children will have a
millennial parent, and there will be four million more children than today,” the release said.
The Portal would offer a “third space,” which would be a “open and serene atmosphere to bridge work and home.” It would get more than 250 miles on a full charge, offer semi self-driving features that would be upgradable as technology progresses, and include seats mounted to tracks so they could move the full length of the vehicle and even be removed.
©2017 the Detroit Free Press Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.