Waymo to Purchase 'Thousands' of Chrysler Pacificas for Self-driving Duty

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Waymo, the self-driving division of Google’s parent company Alphabet, just announced it has reached a deal to purchase a buttload of Pacifica minivans from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Alright, to be fair, it didn’t actually use the term “buttload.” It said Chrysler would provide “thousands” of units, which will ultimately be outfitted for autonomous driving.

Unfortunately, neither company seems willing to disclose an official count. Waymo currently has around 600 self-driving Pacificas in its fleet, so even an extra thousand vehicles would equate to a multi-million dollar deal and the exponential growth of its autonomous development program.

“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,” Waymo CEO John Krafcik said in an official statement. “These additional vehicles will help us scale.”

In the past, Waymo used its little Firefly pod prototypes and Lexus SUVs for testing. However, it has almost entirely phased both out in favor of the Pacifica. The primary reason being that the minivan has more commercial applications. A big order like this could be indicative of the company wanting to move out of testing and into business.

However, with its autonomous fleet just beginning testing in seriously inclement parts of the United States, being able to hail a self-driving Pacifica may not be in the cards for a while.

Still, residents of Phoenix, Arizona have been able to experience its autonomous vehicles without a driver — albeit in a localized area. The company claims it will expand its “Early Rider” program in the months to come, allowing more Arizona residents to use the minivans as their own personal taxi service.

Despite partnering with Waymo, FCA chief executive Sergio Marchionne’s feelings towards autonomy are noticeably measured compared to other CEOs. In the past, he called the race toward autonomy “difficult” and cited the headaches involved as one of the main reasons for getting into bed with company in the first place.

“In order to move quickly and efficiently in autonomy, it is essential to partner with like-minded technology leaders,” Marchionne said in a statement. “Our partnership with Waymo continues to grow and strengthen; this represents the latest sign of our commitment to this technology.”

[Image: Waymo]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Whynotaztec Whynotaztec on Jan 30, 2018

    So if it’s bad to sell to rental fleets, is it bad to sell to autonomous fleets????

  • HotPotato HotPotato on Jan 31, 2018

    These are all plug-in hybrid Pacificas, no? Not just because green=good PR but because the buttload of sensors and computers on board require a fair bit of electricity, or so I am told.

  • Master Baiter Not sure why I can buy an iPhone made in China but not a car. 🤔Automotive lobby, I guess...
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