One of the USA’s ‘big three’ auto makers, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has agreed to supply thousands of its Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans to Google/Alphabet’s Waymo self-driving vehicle division.
FCA delivered 100 Pacifica Hybrid minivans, adapted for self-driving, to Waymo in the second half of 2016 and an additional 500 in 2017. This first-of-its-kind collaboration between Waymo and FCA engineers enabled the teams to design a self-driving vehicle built on a mass production platform.
Waymo is set to open its autonomous ride-hailing service to the public in Phoenix, Arizona, this year. The additional Pacifica Hybrid minivans will be used to support the company as it expands its service to more cities across the USA. Waymo has formally tested its technology in 25 cities across the country, including: Atlanta, Georgia; San Francisco, California; Metro Detroit, Michigan; Phoenix; and Kirkland, Washington.
Last November, Waymo began test-driving a fleet of Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans on public roads without a driver at the wheel – making them the first vehicle to attain SAE Level 4 autonomy. The self-driving Pacifica minivans are some of the most advanced vehicles currently on the road, equipped with Waymo’s powerful hardware suite. They are also running Waymo’s self-driving software, which has been honed with more than 4 million miles of on road testing, and billions of miles in simulation.
This first-of-its-kind collaboration brought engineers from the two businesses together to integrate Waymo’s fully self-driving system into the 2017 FCA Pacifica Hybrid minivan, making use of each company’s individual strengths and resources. Capable of carrying seven passengers, the minivan’s hybrid-electric powertrain, chassis, and structural systems make it ideal for Waymo’s self-driving technology.
“With the world’s first fleet of fully self-driving vehicles on the road, we’ve moved from research and development to operations and deployment,” said John Krafcik, CEO of Waymo. “The Pacifica Hybrid minivans offer a versatile interior and a comfortable ride experience, and these additional vehicles will help us scale.”
FCA’s CEO, Sergio Marchionne, noted, “In order to move quickly and efficiently in autonomy, it is essential to partner with like-minded technology leaders. Our partnership with Waymo continues to grow and strengthen; this represents the latest sign of our commitment to this technology.”