Waymo, the autonomous vehicle company owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, have just unveiled their latest offering – Self-driving Chrysler minivans. The news was revealed by none other than John Krafcik, the CEO of the company.
In his post, John said that their company was working in close collaboration with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) since May of this year. The result is that they’ve managed to come up with heavily modified Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid embedded with Waymo’s self-driving technology. In fact, there are plans of adding a fleet of 100 minivans by next year.
To be able to incorporate the new technology, the engineers over at FCA & Waymo had to modify the powertrain, electrical & structural systems, and even the chassis to make it viable to run with all of Waymo’s sensors.
“Over the last six months, the joint program team has been working to design and engineer the modifications to the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid that would allow us to integrate our new fully self-driving systems. Using several of our early prototype minivans, we’ve already run a gamut of tests, including over 200 hours of extreme-weather testing” says John. The cars would be put over extensive testing at the company’s own test track in California as well as Chelsea Proving Grounds in Chelsea, MI and the Arizona Proving Grounds at Yucca, AZ. The company plans to launch the minivans around the end of 2017.
Waymo believes that as more and more self-driving cars enter the road, there will be a clear need for more types of vehicles which can only mean more choice to the consumers. This could be the first foray by any company into testing minivans equipped with self-driving technology that is able to carry more people safely.
Waymo already has a fleet of cars being tested with their self-driving technology such as Lexus RX450h and Google’s own Prototype vehicles which are being tested at Mountain View, California; Kirkland, Washington; Austin, Texas and Phoenix. With Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid being added to its existing fleet, Waymo will certainly have their hands full in making sure they iron out all the chunks and make self-driving much more safe and practical.