Stellantis CEO says there's still life in Waymo deal for self-driving delivery vans

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Stellantis, the automaker that owns 14 brands, including Chrysler, Jeep and Ram, and autonomous vehicle technology company Waymo are not only still working together, the companies are deepening the partnership, CEO Carlos Tavares told TechCrunch in a recent interview.

This "deepened" partnership will focus on commercial self-driving Ram delivery vans, a target that was first announced in 2020 and promptly faded from public view. Discussions on this "improved" deal have focused, in part, on a crux around driverless delivery: How does the package get from the vehicle to the customer?

"When you reach the destination, how do you take the parcel out of the van?" Tavares said in a wide-ranging interview. "This has been a point of discussion that doesn't seem easy to solve and we are now upgrading our collaboration deal with them to take that into consideration."

"At the same time, we understand their needs and there are a lot of things that we can do for them in terms of engineering," he said, adding it is too soon to share details. "But I would say that the partnership with Waymo is getting deeper. And I think, more exciting."

Tavares played coy on the important what, where and when details. But he did add that he expected to be able to share more "possibly by summer."

A Waymo spokesperson confirmed that the company continues to look at ways to deepen its relationship with Stellantis, but didn't share any other details or if progress had been made.

Tavares' comments suggest the company has more than a passing interest in reviving a deal
that appeared destined to fizzle out as so many other autonomous vehicle-OEM partnerships have in the past two years.

Even if the two companies do cement a broader deal, there is still the very real challenge of executing it.

Waymo, which is owned by Google parent-company Alphabet, currently doesn't operate a commercial delivery service using its self-driving vehicles. Last summer, it shuttered its self-driving trucks program, Waymo Via, to put all of its resources into scaling the robotaxi service.

In May 2023, Waymo and Uber agreed to a multiyear strategic partnership to allow Uber users to hail a driverless vehicle via the app in Phoenix. That deal did include a future plan to include delivery via Uber Eats, but as of today, it has not launched, according to a Waymo spokesperson.

The two companies have been partners since 2016 when a deal was struck to supply Waymo with thousands of custom Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans that would become the first driverless vehicles to launch.

Under the deal, Fiat Chrysler -- now known as Stellantis -- would handle the manufacturing and provide Waymo with minivans that built in redundancies designed for autonomous driving.

Waymo never got close to the 62,000-minivan order it agreed to in 2018 as part of an expanded partnership with Fiat Chrysler. Hundreds, not thousands, of minivans were delivered to Waymo. But the minivan did become a critical part of its commercialization plan and over its lifespan the fleet provided tens of thousands of rides to the public, according to the company. (Waymo has never revealed detailed figures of its minivan fleet beyond that its total global fleet is somewhere around 700 vehicles.)

Waymo ended the Chrysler Pacifica program in May 2023. Today, its robotaxi service uses all-electric Jaguar I-Pace vehicles.