Aurora Ends Affiliation with VW as it Begins Collaboration with FCA
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has arguably been quieter on the autonomous vehicle front than Ford and GM, but this week marked a significant development for the company. FCA announced it will partner with Aurora, a Bay Area startup developing self-driving technologies. The companies did not disclose the financial terms of the arrangement.
Wired reports that the purpose of the partnership is to integrate Aurora’s fully autonomous Driver system into commercial vehicles manufactured by FCA. Aurora was founded in 2016 by mobility industry veterans Chris Urmson, Sterling Anderson, and Drew Bagnell, formerly of Google, Tesla, and Uber, respectively.
The move came shortly after FCA abruptly ended merger talks with French automaker Renault. FCA has a couple of other high-profile mobility partnerships, including one to supply Waymo with Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans that can be turned into robotaxis, and a collaboration with Intel and BMW.
Also abruptly ending is Volkswagen’s yearlong partnership with Aurora. Neither company offered many details as to why the relationship ended, but VW is expected to announce a new collaboration with Ford to co-develop driverless technologies in the near future. Reports indicate VW is interested in taking a stake in Argo AI, which is developing a fully autonomous driving system for Ford that is similar to Aurora’s.
And if this ever-changing web of AV-related relationships hasn’t already made your head spin, there’s this: In May, FCA finalized a plan to invest nearly $2 billion to expand an idled Jeep plant in Detroit, where it will manufacture next-generation SUVs. In order to seal the deal, the city of Detroit had to obtain 215 acres of land, including 82 acres from the Maroun family—the same family that owned the abandoned Michigan Central Station train depot that Ford bought and is now turning into its headquarters for autonomous vehicle development.