Fiat-Chrysler Joins BMW-Intel-Mobileye Autonomous Platform Alliance

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By James Hodgson | 3Q 2017 | IN-4725

In August 2017, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with BMW, Intel and Mobileye alliance to join their efforts to develop a scalable platform for autonomous driving. FCA becomes the first original equipment manufacturer (OEM), besides founding member BMW, to join a coalition which includes Tier 1 suppliers Continental and Delphi, silicon giant Intel, and the latter’s recently acquired Mobileye, a leader in computer vision.

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A Growing Alliance

NEWS


In August 2017, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with BMW, Intel and Mobileye alliance to join their efforts to develop a scalable platform for autonomous driving. FCA becomes the first original equipment manufacturer (OEM), besides founding member BMW, to join a coalition which includes Tier 1 suppliers Continental and Delphi, silicon giant Intel, and the latter’s recently acquired Mobileye, a leader in computer vision.

As well as assembling a coalition that represents most of the supply chain necessary to develop autonomous vehicles, cooperation between the alliance members is intended to pool resources, minimize duplication of efforts, and maximize collaboration between unique expertise from all the players involved.

The cooperation intends to introduce 40 autonomous test vehicles to public roads by the end of 2017, with an ambitious target for 202:  the commercial availability of a flexible platform that can support level 3, 4, and 5 autonomous driving, which will be offered to OEMs who can then differentiate the product according to their own branding.

A Big Boost for FCA and the Alliance

IMPACT


To date, FCA has lagged behind in autonomous vehicle development and innovation, particularly in comparison to direct, mass market competitors such as Ford and GM. Certainly, FCA does not have the investments in AI or digital mapping that Ford has, nor has it invested in or developed car sharing services in the way that GM has with Maven. FCA’s ventures into the autonomous vehicle so far have largely been confined to their relationship with Google (later Waymo), assisting the technology giant in graduating from their pod-like test vehicles by integrating their autonomous systems into Chrysler Pacific minivans.

Therefore, although FCA does bring considerable engineering experience in autonomous system integration, from a technology perspective they are no doubt gaining more from this cooperation than they bring. BMW pioneered traffic jam assistance (TJA) in 2013, the first level 2 semi-autonomous system brought to market, while Mobileye dominates the market for automotive computer vision. What FCA does bring is scale – the manufacturer shipped 4.6 million vehicles in 2014 and 2015, and 4.4 million in 2016, significantly more than BMW’s average of 2 million per year. Having a mass market player’s perspective will help the alliance to develop a platform that can be marketed to OEMs who specialize in price sensitive segments.

With numerous OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers now coalescing around the NVIDIA platform, the MOU brings a much needed boost to the comparatively smaller alliance.

Competing but Complementary OEMs

COMMENTARY


The efforts to develop autonomous driving technologies are numerous, fragmented, and spill over beyond the traditional automotive ecosystem. The question no-one wants to answer is “how many times does the autonomous driving problem really need to be solved?” While the ride hailing and in-vehicle experience for autonomous vehicles will be differentiated, a safe, functioning autonomous vehicle will ultimately be a homogenous product – navigating from A to B while avoiding collisions with other road users. It therefore makes a lot of sense for the numerous stakeholders at the same level of the value chain to cooperate on technology development, and then differentiate the resultant mobility service accordingly.

This does not come naturally to OEMs, who are highly competitive and have been slow to embrace cooperation – although these attitudes have lessened recently, as demonstrated by the cooperation between BMW, Audi and Mercedes in sharing anonymized data to deliver new connected services through the HERE open location platform. Therefore, two established auto manufacturers coming together to combine expertise and avoid duplication of efforts is noteworthy, but it is also important to recognize that BMW and FCA complement each other, perhaps more so than any other two OEMs. While BMW is a premium brand, the majority of FCAs sub brands address mass market, leaving very little overlap in the two manufacturer’s target market. Furthermore, 56% of FCAs vehicle sales come from the North American market (compared to 23% for BMW), while BMW performs more strongly in APAC (25% compared to FCA’s 3%). Cooperation between OEMs is likely to increase as the ambitious deadlines for highly automated driving draw closer, but at first it is more likely to take the form of complimentary “ying-yang” relationships.

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