That Fleet of Robot Pacificas is Ready to Roll, Possibly On a Street Near You

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
that fleet of robot pacificas is ready to roll possibly on a street near you

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.

[Image: FCA]

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14 of 15 comments
  • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Dec 19, 2016

    They might be more convincing if they had a real vehicle photo.

    • See 11 previous
    • Shaker Shaker on Dec 20, 2016

      @OldManPants "Didn’t P&G miss the boat by not fluoridizing Scope and using that for a name?" I think that when Scope first came to market, there were plenty of people still around that bought the lie that fluoridation of drinking water was a Communist mind-control plot. (I think you *may* remember that time :-))

  • PenguinBoy PenguinBoy on Dec 19, 2016

    In addition to giving FCA exposure to autononmous technology at low cost, this also strikes me as a good brand building opportunity. With the PHEV Pacifica, FCA could possibly reach some buyers that would previously have ended up in a loaded Odessey or Sienna, rather than competing solely on price with $20k value package Caravans. News about autonomous Pacificas could potentially help position the new Pacifica as a more modern and high tech vehicle. FCA has some pretty impressive halo vehicles today, but an autonomous PHEV vehicle might appeal to folks that don't care much about Vipers, Rubicons, or HELLCATS.

  • Damon Thomas Adding to the POSITIVES... It's a pretty fun car to mod
  • GregLocock Two adjacent states in Australia have different attitudes to roadworthy inspections. In NSW they are annual. In Victoria they only occur at change of ownership. As you'd expect this leads to many people in Vic keeping their old car.So if the worrywarts are correct Victoria's roads would be full of beaten up cars and so have a high accident rate compared with NSW. Oh well, the stats don't agree.
  • Lorenzo In Massachusetts, they used to require an inspection every 6 months, checking your brake lights, turn signals, horn, and headlight alignment, for two bucks.Now I get an "inspection" every two years in California, and all they check is the smog. MAYBE they notice the tire tread, squeaky brakes, or steering when they drive it into the bay, but all they check is the smog equipment and tailpipe emissions.For all they would know, the headlights, horn, and turn signals might not work, and the car has a "speed wobble" at 45 mph. AFAIK, they don't even check EVs.
  • Not Tire shop mechanic tugging on my wheel after I complained of grinding noise didn’t catch that the ball joint was failing. Subsequently failed to prevent the catastrophic failure of the ball joint and separation of the steering knuckle from the car! I’ve never lived in a state that required annual inspection, but can’t say that having the requirement has any bearing on improving safety given my experience with mechanics…
  • Mike978 Wow 700 days even with the recent car shortages.