Care to volunteer?
The biggest news regarding Google’s self-driving technology division, Waymo, is that it’s just announced an additional 500 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans will join its self-driving fleet. There are currently 100 minivans that have been specifically modified with Waymo’s self-driving technology. But what we found to be just as interesting by the joint Waymo-Chrysler announcement is that the former is looking for public volunteers to use its fleet of self-driving vehicles for everyday travel.
More specifically, these volunteers will need to live in Phoenix, Arizona, where Waymo’s early rider program is currently located. Now, we can understand why you might be a bit hesitant to participate in a program like this, but Waymo sounds quite reassuring when stating that the self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans "are the most advanced vehicles on the road today, equipped with Waymo’s powerful hardware suite." If that’s not enough, these minivans also run Waymo’s self-driving software, that’s supposedly been refined and perfected thanks to "nearly 3 million miles of on-road testing and billions of miles in simulation."
FCA and Waymo engineers worked together in order to integrate the self-driving tech into the Pacifica. For example, the van’s electrical, powertrain, chassis and structural systems have all been modified to accommodate the technology. So, everything sounds just fine on paper, but real-world testing with human beings not in the employment of either of these companies is a bold step. It must be perfectly safe, otherwise neither FCA nor Waymo would be willing to take a chance like this. Any volunteers? Head on over to Waymo’s application website to enroll.