Waymo Orders Thousands Of Self-Driving Minivans

Posted January 31, 2018

Google's autonomous auto spin-off will soon expand its fleet of FCA minivans after striking a deal with the United Kingdom -based automaker to purchase thousands of more Chrysler Pacifica units.

Fiat Chrysler in Canada is producing the self-driving vehicles for Waymo, which is planning to deploy the hybrids in cities where it is now testing autonomous driving technology.

Waymo is gearing up to launch its own self-driving shuttle service, but before it does, it'll need more cars - a lot more cars.

"In order to move quickly and efficiently in autonomy, it is essential to partner with like-minded technology leaders", said FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne. Waymo announced it was in discussions with Honda Motor Co.in late 2016 but hasn't shared any partnership details.

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Waymo, the self-driving unit of Google parent Alphabet, has reached a deal with one of Detroit's Big Three automakers to dramatically expand its fleet of autonomous vehicles.

"The Pacifica Hybrid minivans offer a versatile interior and a comfortable ride experience, and these additional vehicles will help us scale", Waymo CEO John Krafcik said.

Delivery of the additional minivans will begin later this year and will support expansion of the Waymo service to additional cities. Level 4 autonomy means the vehicle is "fully autonomous" and is able to perform all safety-critical driving functions but not able to handle extreme environments or inclement weather. Their technology had already been tested in 25 cities across the USA earlier this month, the self-driving minivans were tested in Atlanta.

In December 2016, Waymo initiated on developing its autonomous Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans.

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Now nearly 100 of the company's self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans are driving without a human test driver in Chandler, an area of Phoenix.

The sleek minivans will be outfitted with steering wheels, but won't have drivers from front seats.

The company proved it has reached Level 4 autonomy in November 2017, when it started testing the minivans without a driver at the wheel.

That's in addition to the 600-plus Pacifica vans Waymo has already converted to self-driving vehicles it's using to test out the software in more than two dozen cities.

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