This Is Waymo and Fiat Chrysler’s New Self-Driving Minivan
Not surprisingly, it looks like a Pacifica wearing a helmet.
2016 may be winding down, but Google’s autonomous vehicle project is blasting ahead like the holidays don’t even exist. With less than a week to go until Christmas, the tech company’s newly spun-off self-driving car division Waymo has just revealed the self-driving minivan it developed with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The new autonomous Pacificas will join Waymo’s fleet in early 2017.
The first 100 examples of the self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans have been completed, according to the companies, all complete with the full suite of integrated technology that enables the vans to operate autonomously. While FCA’s press release did not claim which of the frequently-used levels of autonomous vehicular operation the new vans are capable of, it did use the term “fully self-driving” no fewer than nine times, so we’re guessing these Pacificas are (at least theoretically) capable of Level 4 autonomy.
While the autonomous vehicle project was frequently associated with Google’s tiny, koala-faced concept car during its experimental pre-Waymo days, most of the company’s practical fleet of self-driving prototypes was pulled from the Toyota Motor Company fleet, consisting largely of heavily-modified Priuses and Lexus RX crossovers.
For the new Pacificas, however, Google—sorry, Waymo, we’re still getting used to that—and Fiat Chrysler worked together extensively to integrate the self-driving systems into the car’s electrical and mechanical systems. The result is a vehicle that looks far more streamlined and natural than Google’s previous self-driving test cars...although it does still look like a minivan wearing a helmet.
“FCA’s product development and manufacturing teams have been agile partners, enabling us to go from program kickoff to full vehicle assembly in just six months,” Waymo CEO John Krafcik said in a statement.
Ultimately, Waymo—which, as a spin-off company from Google’s parante Alphabet Alphabet, will now be forced to find a way to make money—is widely expected to use its autonomous vehicles to enter the ride-hailing arena.
Beneath all the robotic frippery and sensory headgear lies the plug-in hybrid version of the new Chrysler Pacifica, which was launched earlier this year and can travel up to 33 miles solely on electric power. We think it also happens to be the best-looking minivan on sale these days, but that’s just like, y'know, our opinion, man.