Merchant Innovation

Fiat Chrysler To Debut Robot Taxis In China

Fiat Chrysler, in partnership with Chinese-based AutoX, wants to launch robo-taxis in China later this year, according to an announcement. The automobile maker, one of the "Big Three" in Detroit, has been casting a wide net for autonomous vehicle tech, and wants to keep pace with rivals in Detroit.

Hong Kong's AutoX said it plans to integrate self-driving vehicle tech into a fleet of Chrysler Pacifica minivans — the same vehicle that Waymo, Alphabet's subsidiary known for its work on autonomous vehicles, has often chosen to use. The two companies said they plan to offer up the self-driving cars this year in numerous Chinese cities, including Shenzhen and Shanghai, later in 2020.

AutoX — a lesser-known startup than others in the field — was founded in 2016 by Jianxiong Xiao, a former Princeton professor who specializes in 3D learning, computer vision and robotics. According to a Medium post by the company, he goes by the nickname Professor X. AutoX has attracted high-profile investors like China’s Dongfeng Motor Group and eCommerce giant Alibaba.

The company was also one of two (along with Waymo) to apply to test its self-driving tech in California last year. The state didn't approve yet, though it has given Waymo the green light.

Fiat Chrysler has been buddying up with China as of late, as it also announced a deal with iPhone maker Foxconn to develop electric vehicles in the country. The company makes its own brand of vehicles, along with big names like Jeep and Dodge. However, it's been lagging behind its rivals in both EV and AV production. To better survive in the fluid landscape of autonomous driving, the company has partnered with French automaker PSA Group, which has names like Peugeot and Citroën in its roster.

The strategy of teaming up with other automakers and tech companies has done well for Fiat Chrsyler, as it tries to align itself with the trends that some see as the future of the auto industry.

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