Google's autonomous car technology is about to come into fruition.
Back in May, we learned that Google had partnered with Fiat Chrysler to accelerate the development of its autonomous car technology using the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid. Now we have a first glimpse of the modified minivan that will be the company's car of choice for testing autonomous driving technology that's in development by Google's new company Waymo. 100 Pacificas have been produced and supplied by FCA to join the fleet as of early 2017 – more than double the number of Google's current test cars.
Engineers from FCA and Waymo are currently collaborating at a special facility in Michigan making modifications to the minivan's electrical, powertrain, chassis and structural systems to optimize the vehicle for the autonomous technology. It will be fitted with a custom computer, sensors and telematics lifted from Google's Lexus SUV and other self-driving cars. "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 John Krafcik, Chief Executive Officer, Waymo.
"They've been great partners, and we look forward to continued teamwork with them as we move into 2017. As consumers' transportation needs to evolve, strategic collaborations such as this one are vital to promoting a culture of innovation, safety and technology," said FCA boss Sergio Marchionne. "Our partnership with Waymo enables FCA to directly address the opportunities and challenges the automotive industry faces as we quickly approach a future where fully self-driving vehicles are very much a part of our daily lives." Expect the state of Michigan in particular to be populated with the self-driving Pacificas in the next few months. Let's hope they don't crash this time.