Alphabet’s Waymo Expands Chrysler Partnership To Driverless Minivans

Alphabet Inc.’s (GOOGL) Waymo has announced that it will be expanding its partnership with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCAU) also known as FCA to deploy self-autonomous driving systems in its minivans. 

Waymo stated that it aims to develop and test its self-driving technology with a focus on delivery services. The company plans to bring its Level 4 (L4) autonomous technology to Chrysler’s Ram ProMaster commercial vehicle. The partnership is consistent with Waymo’s goal to work with manufacturers and motor carriers to integrate its technology into their vehicles. Waymo has stated that it does not plan to get into truck manufacturing or shipping services.

In a July 22 press release, Waymo CEO John Krafcik said, “Today, we’re expanding our partnership with FCA with the Waymo Driver as the exclusive L4 autonomy solution for this global automotive company. Together, we’ll introduce the Waymo Driver throughout the FCA brand portfolio, opening up new frontiers for ride-hailing, commercial delivery, and personal-use vehicles around the world.”

The L4 technology that Waymo deploys is capable of completing an entire journey without driver intervention and is technically capable of driverless operation but the technology has limitations that require a passenger to be present for supervision. It is a step down from Level 5 which offers complete hands-off driving with no human intervention. Many cities have placed restrictions on Level 5 autonomy because of safety issues and calls for more testing.

Waymo formed its first manufacturing partnership with FCA in 2016, incorporating its systems into FCA vehicles such as the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan. It was the first commercial ride-hailing service that was completely autonomous with passenger-assistance in dozens of U.S. cities.

“Our now four-year partnership with Waymo continues to break new ground. Incorporating the Waymo Driver, the world’s leading self-driving technology, into our Pacifica minivans, we became the only partnership actually deploying fully autonomous technology in the real world, on public roads,” said FCA CEO Mike Manley.

He added, “Waymo’s commitment to partner with us to deploy its L4 fully autonomous technology across our entire product portfolio, our partnership is setting the pace for the safe and sustainable mobility solutions that will help define the automotive world in the years and decades to come.”

Needham analyst Laura Martin expects Google’s upcoming earnings report to reflect the pandemic’s impact on ad revenue. “We lower our earnings estimates for 2Q20 and FY20 owing primarily to weak ad categories including travel, entertainment, media, and retail,” Martin told investors recently. “Until COVID-19 is controlled enough that the economy strengthens and consumer demand returns, we expect these categories to remain weak.”

Martin estimates that Google’s US 2Q20 revenue will contract by 7% year-over-year. She maintains a Buy rating on the stock with a $1,800 per share price target.

Overall, 28 analysts assign Buy ratings, 1 Hold rating, and no Sell ratings, giving GOOGL a Strong Buy Street consensus. The average analyst price target stands at $1,619.36 suggesting 4% upside potential, with shares already up 16% year-to-date. (See Alphabet’s stock analysis on TipRanks).

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