Waymo Buying 'Thousands' of FCA Minivans for Self-Driving Service

The latest order touted by the automaker followed previous delivery of 600 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrids outfitted for autonomous ride-hailing service.

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Fiat Chrysler says Waymo has ordered "thousands" more Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans as Google's self-driving tech unit readies to launch autonomous ride-hailing in Phoenix later this year.

An FCA spokesperson declined to elaborate on the length of the agreement or clarify the size of the order. "We are not giving a specific number, it’s dependent upon Waymo’s business needs," the spokesperson told The Drive. Waymo did not immediately return a request for comment.

The automaker delivered 100 Pacificas adapted for self-driving to Waymo in the second half of 2016, FCA said, with another 500 produced last year. Waymo and FCA engineers collaborated in designing 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,” FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne said in a news release. “This represents the latest sign of our commitment to this technology.”  

Waymo plans to launch an autonomous ride-hailing service to the public in Phoenix in 2017, with the additional Pacificas to be used as it expands its service to more U.S. cities. The company has tested its technology in 25 U.S. cities including Atlanta, San Francisco, and Detroit.

“These additional vehicles will help us scale,” offered John Krafcik, CEO of Waymo, in the release.

Waymo in November test-drove a fleet of Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans on public roads without drivers, making the hybrid minivans the first vehicle to attain Level 4 autonomy, a classification determined by the Society of Automotive Engineers, according to FCA.

The move towards putting self-driving cars onto U.S. roads comes amid surveys that find Americans are not exactly comfortable with the concept and as lawmakers debate the merits of allowing mass rollouts of the technology.