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FCA Adds ADAS Capability to Chelsea

It seems that FCA is now taking things more seriously as regards the development of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), all the way to fully autonomous: it has announced that it has invested more than $30-million at its Chelsea Proving Grounds, which is about an hour-and-a-half southwest of the FCA US headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan.
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At the end of May, the then-CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the late Sergio Marchionne, said, on the occasion of the announcement that up to 62,000 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans would be added to Waymo’s self-driving fleet, “FCA is committed to bringing self-driving technology to our customers in a manner that is safe, efficient and realistic.”

Not unlike the situation with regard to electric vehicles, which Marchionne said was a money-loser except, perhaps, at the high end, it seemed that FCA was going to let GM with Cruise Automation and Ford with Argo AI make the huge investments for autonomous technology while it would work with Waymo and arguably let the Silicon Valley company do the heavy lifting.

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In the end, when the tech was developed, FCA could put the developed technology into its vehicles; at the time of the May announcement it was also indicated that the two companies were taking about the possibility of FCA licensing Waymo technology and putting it in a vehicle that would be available to retail customers.

Waymo is operating a development center in Novi, Michigan, and those of us in southeastern Michigan sometimes see its Pacificas in the “wild,” as the vehicles are undergoing tests in an environment that isn’t quite as benign as places like Chandler, Arizona. (To say nothing of the potholes that make many roads seem like there is someone wandering around with a jackhammer.)

But it seems that FCA is now taking things more seriously as regards the development of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), all the way to fully autonomous: it has announced that it has invested more than $30-million at its Chelsea Proving Grounds, which is about an hour-and-a-half southwest of the FCA US headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

Included in the development are a high-speed track for autonomous vehicle development that includes obstacles, tunnels, and interstate-style exit and entrance ramps; a 6,500-square-foot command center; and a 35-acre safety feature evaluation center. (The Chelsea Proving Ground is on about 4,000 acres, so there’s room.)

Of the new addition, Mike Manley, CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and COO of the NAFTA region for the company, said, “Our ability to test for autonomous and advanced safety technologies enables FCA to offer our customers the features they want across our brand portfolio.”

What’s interesting to note is that about 35 minutes east of the Chelsea Proving Grounds is the American Center for Mobility, which in not only one of 10 federally designated proving grounds for self-driving vehicle development and testing, but includes a 2.5-mile highway loop, a 700-foot curved tunnel, two double overpasses, intersections, and roundabouts. It is on 500 acres in Ypsilanti Township.

However, what Chelsea has that the ACM doesn’t: replicas of some of the features of the Rubicon Trail. Not that it is necessarily likely that there’s an autonomous Wrangler coming, but were there to be. . . .

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