By on December 19, 2016

FCA waymo pacifica

Google’s recently rebranded autonomous vehicle project, Waymo, and Fiat Chyrlser Automobiles have been working together on developing self-driving minivans since the summer. Half a year in, the two companies have announced the production of 100 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrids with complete self-driving capabilities.

As you read this, the modified vans are being outfitted with Google-designed sensors and software, almost ready for the road. 

“The Pacifica Hybrid will be a great addition to our fully self-driving test fleet. 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,” said Waymo CEO John Krafcik in a company statement. “They’ve been great partners, and we look forward to continued teamwork with them as we move into 2017.”

Unlike Ford and General Motors, FCA hadn’t yet done much in the way of autonomous maturation. Putting out an entire fleet of specifically engineered minivans mated to advanced self-driving technology shows the company is serious about applying the science. According to a statement, FCA has also altered the minivans’ drivetrain, chassis, and electrical systems to “optimize the Pacifica Hybrid for Waymo’s fully self-driving technology.”

While this is another opportunity to fine-tune software, the focus for Waymo is to make use of the Pacificas to establish a market for the technology. “With this great new minivan on the road in our test markets, we’ll learn how people of all ages, shapes, and group sizes experience our fully self-driving technology,” Krafcik said in a blog post.

The autonomous Chryslers should begin appearing on public streets in just a few months.

While this is the biggest step FCA has taken towards self-driving vehicles, domestic competition remains fierce. General Motors recently said it would begin open testing of autonomous Chevrolet Bolts in metropolitan Detroit next year. Meanwhile, Ford has been doing testing on public roads since 2015, has a test fleet of Fusion Hybrids, and has announced plans to sell a self-driving vehicle by 2021.

FCA waymo pacifica

[Image: FCA]

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