Fiat Chrysler joins autonomous driving team of BMW, Intel, Mobileye

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Fiat Chrysler is joining the self-driving alliance led by BMW Group, Intel Corp and its Mobileye subsidiary, becoming the second automaker in the year-old group to opt to partner in developing an autonomous driving platform.

More automakers are seeking alliances to share the high costs of developing self-driving vehicle technology, which requires extensive research and development and software expertise outside the traditional domain of carmakers.

The group plans to put its technology for both fully and partially autonomous driving into production by 2021, matching a general timeframe shared by rival automakers and technology companies who are developing such technology alone.

In a joint statement, the partners said Fiat Chrysler (FCA), which already has a non-exclusive alliance with Alphabet Inc’s self-driving unit Waymo, would bring engineering and other technical resources and expertise to the deal, as well as experience in North America, the automaker’s most profitable market.

FCA Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne cited the “synergies and economies of scale” possible in joining the alliance.

Marchionne has long argued that automakers must merge in order to survive the prohibitively high costs of making more technologically advanced vehicles. In April, he said FCA was looking for new partners in self-driving development because “banking all of our solutions on one possible outcome is going to be disastrous.”

Auto suppliers Delphi Automotive and Continental AG are also part of the BMW-Intel alliance.

The group said it was still on track to put 40 self-driving test vehicles on the road by the end of 2017, and would learn from the 100 test vehicles to be deployed by Mobileye in the United States beginning later this year.

The FCA partnership with Waymo uses Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans for testing.

Reporting By Alexandria Sage; Editing by David Gregorio