When Waymo picks up its first paying customer in a driverless taxi later this year, the car doing the honors will be made by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV. Not the sensors and software—the futuristic technology that allows a robot to drive a minivan will be made by Waymo. The relatively boring minivan itself? That’s pretty much Fiat Chrysler’s only significant contribution to the race to develop autonomous vehicles.
It’s an ironic twist that Fiat Chrysler, the world’s seventh-largest automaker, with a reputation for being frugal with research budgets, will provide the cars for one of the pioneering driverless businesses. The company’s decision to forgo serious investment in self-driving technology has led some analysts to issue grim warnings for its future if ride-hailing ends up cannibalizing individual car ownership.