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Google to Enter Ride-Sharing Deal with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Google will reportedly deploy a semi-autonomous version of the Chrysler Pacifica minivan as early as the end of 2017.

(TNS) -- Google parent Alphabet plans to launch a ride-sharing service with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' new Chrysler Pacifica minivans as part of a reorganization of the tech company's automotive unit, according to a report from Bloomberg News.

The possible deal could lead to an expansion of an earlier agreement between the Auburn Hills automaker and the tech giant launched last spring and would give FCA a direct link to the fast-emerging ride-sharing industry.

Google's self-driving car project held an event today in San Francisco to announce that it renamed itself Waymo as it continues to work toward developing autonomous vehicles for the public.

But John Krafcik, formerly CEO of Google Cars and now leader of Waymo, declined to comment for the Bloomberg report about a ride-sharing service with Fiat Chrysler.

Google inked a deal with FCA last spring to outfit 100 Pacifica minivans with Google's radar, lasers and cameras. Google had said the deal was made to quickly add to its fleet in order to further test its systems and ready them for commercial use.

According to Bloomberg, Google will deploy a semi-autonomous version of the Chrysler Pacifica minivan for the new service as early as the end of 2017. To make the service work, it would need far more than the fleet of 100 that was previously announced.

"We do not have anything additional to add to this," FCA spokeswoman Dianna Gutierrez said in an e-mail.

Several other automakers are also forging ahead with ride-sharing partnerships and their own ride-sharing companies.

General Motors created a new brand in January called Maven for a car-sharing service that will launch next month in Ann Arbor. GM also invested $500 million in Lyft in January to help the company continue the rapid growth of its ride-sharing service. In September, Ford acquired Chariot, a crowd-sourced shuttle service. Ford also announced a partnership with bike-sharing provider Motivate.

FCA Chairman John Elkann said in April that automakers should avoid the temptation to shoulder the cost of ride-sharing services on their own.

"Boring old car makers need to figure out how to make this profitable and guard against falling into the ... trap of ignoring that business while chasing profits in other parts of the value chain," Elkann told Reuters.

Under the initial deal with Google, FCA said it would design and engineer around 100 vehicles uniquely built for Google's self-driving technology. Google will integrate the suite of sensors and computers that the vehicles will rely on to navigate roads autonomously.

FCA could be keeping quiet today so it can make the announcement in January. FCA surprised many in the industry last week when it said it does not plan to reveal a new car or truck at the North American International Auto Show in January, instead deciding to unveil a new vehicle in Las Vegas on Jan. 3 as part of CES, or the Consumer Electronics Show.

Bloomberg has reported that FCA plans to reveal an electric version of the Pacifica at CES. While FCA has declined to comment, that move would make sense for two reasons: First, the automaker revealed the standard gasoline version of the Pacifica at the last Detroit auto show in January. Second, CES has emerged as a show of choice for automakers to reveal electric cars and self-driving technology.

©2016 Detroit Free Press Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.