Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will cooperate with BMW to develop self-driving cars, the companies said Wednesday, as traditional automakers look to defend their turf against cash-rich Silicon Valley giants eager to upend the industry.
So-called autonomous vehicles are expected to transform the auto industry within the next decade. The new technology pits established carmakers, with their decades of experience and global supply chains, against the likes of Google and Apple, which have much greater financial resources as well as greater expertise in the software that will be crucial to the development of driverless vehicles.
Fiat Chrysler has struggled more than most carmakers to compete in this new world because of meager profits. The company has largely stayed on the sidelines while rivals like Volkswagen or General Motors moved into technology-oriented businesses like car sharing or digital mapping.
The long-term risk for Fiat Chrysler was that, absent a major shift, it would be relegated to producing cars for Silicon Valley companies that would supply the software and take most of the profit. Waymo, a unit of Google’s parent, Alphabet, has been using Fiat Chrysler minivans to test self-driving technology. In…