Major automaker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has announced an agreement to supply “thousands” of Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans to Waymo, an autonomous car unit of Google parent company Alphabet Inc., to support the launch of a driverless ride-hailing service.
FCA previously delivered 100 Pacifica Hybrid minivans, adapted for self-driving, to Waymo during the second half of 2016 and an additional 500 in 2017. The automaker says this collaboration with Waymo and FCA engineers enabled the teams to design a self-driving vehicle built on a mass production platform.
“In order to move quickly and efficiently in autonomy, it is essential to partner with like-minded technology leaders,” says Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. “Our partnership with Waymo continues to grow and strengthen; this represents the latest sign of our commitment to this technology.”
According to FCA, Waymo is set to open its autonomous ride-hailing service to the public beginning in Phoenix this year. The additional Pacifica Hybrid minivans will be used to support Waymo as it expands its service to more cities across the U.S. Waymo has officially tested its technology in 25 cities across the U.S., including Atlanta, San Francisco, Metro Detroit, Phoenix and Kirkland, Washington.
“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,” saYS 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.”
Last November, Waymo began test-driving a fleet of Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans on public roads without a driver at the wheel. With this technical milestone, the hybrid minivans became the first vehicle to attain Level 4 autonomy, a classification determined by the Society of Automotive Engineers, according to FCA.
The self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans are the most advanced vehicles on the road today, equipped with Waymo’s powerful hardware suite. The self-driving minivans 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 FCA and Waymo together to integrate Waymo’s fully self-driving system into the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan, leveraging each company’s individual strengths and resources. The minivan’s electrical, powertrain, chassis and structural systems make an ideal vehicle to accommodate Waymo’s self-driving technology.