Uber and Fiat are in discussions to form a self-driving car partnership – TechCrunch

Posted: Thursday, June 09, 2016

Uber and Fiat Chrysler are in talks about a partnership involving self-driving car technology, according to several reports.

Bloomberg first published earlier today about a possible deal between the two companies, confirmed by Wall Street Journal sources. 

According to a person familiar with the matter, the discussions are in the very early stage and Uber is in conversation with a number of other carmakers. There’s always a chance the deal could fall apart. Uber declined to comment about the possible partnership at this time.

The deal seems part of a growing trend among automakers and tech companies focused on transportation and Uber has been chatting with several automakers lately, according to the reports.

But it’s not the first to strike a deal with an auto manufacturer. In fact, several Uber rivals have started to make a play in the self-driving space – Volkswagen invested $300 million in Gett, Apple, which is making its own self-driving car, invested a billion in China’s Didi Chuxing last month and Lyft announced a half a billion dollar investment from GM in early January to help create the infrastructure for a fleet of self-driving vehicles.

Many traditional car makers have started forging a path to a self-driving future. Volkswagen, as mentioned, as well as Daimler, BMW and now Fiat Chrysler wants in on the autonomous tech race.

Fiat is the third largest car maker in the U.S. and may be feeling left out of the game. A merger deal between GM and Fiat Chrysler fell apart last year, right before GM’s investment in Lyft and now the major car maker may be setting its sights on ride-hailing company Uber as a way in.

Uber is working on building a fleet of self-driving vehicles and poached a bunch of Carnegie Mellon roboticists away last year to work on the project. Uber then financed the institution with $5.5 million as a way to make amends and create the Uber Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh.

Uber also confirmed it had formed an auto-leasing deal with Toyota, which has become a major player in self-driving innovation, in May. According to a source close to the matter, Toyota and Uber are not planning on a partnership around self-driving technology.

Fiat is also making inroads with other tech firms in Silicon Valley around autonomous tech. Alphabet’s Google agreed to partner on building a fleet of 100 self-driving minivans in May.

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