Waymo Orders ‘Thousands’ of Pacifica Hybrid Minivans

As Waymo plans to expand its self-driving, ride-sharing services across the US, the company has now ordered “thousands” of Chrysler Pacifica minivans to expand its ever-growing autonomous vehicle fleet.

Chrysler and Waymo have a relationship dating to 2016, when the two companies agreed to a deal for a fleet of 100 minivans. That agreement later expanded to 500 vehicles in 2017, and on January 30, the two expanded the relationship to involve more of these hybrid vehicles, although both declined to release a specific number.

The Pacifica minivans are due to arrive later this year, when Waymo expands its autonomous ride-sharing service. The first stop is Phoenix, where the company, along with many others, is testing autonomous and self-driving vehicles.

From there, Waymo, which is an Alphabet company, will move across the US, including Atlanta, San Francisco, Metro Detroit and Kirkland, Wash.

When this expansion happens, Waymo expects the vehicles to operate at Level 4 autonomy, meaning that no driver is needed as part of the service. These vehicles were jointly developed by engineers from Waymo and FCA, the parent company of Chrysler.

In a statement, both companies note that these types of minivans offer the ideal combination of electrical, powertrain, chassis and other systems structures to support Waymo’s combination of hardware and software that helps create self-driving vehicles.

“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 wrote in Tuesday’s announcement.

Waymo is not the only company to attempt a self-driving, ride-sharing service, but the company now seems further ahead compared to some of its competition. For instance, General Motors’ self-driving subsidiary Cruise Automation is developing a similar service for what the company calls “dense urban environments” that will be available sometime in 2019.

Uber, which helped pioneered the ride-sharing market, has been testing self-driving vehicles in the Pittsburgh area, and taking advantage of that city’s engineering talent. The company also recently cut a deal with Volvo.

 

— Scott Ferguson, is the managing editor for the Connected Car, as well as the editor of Enterprise Cloud News. Follow him on Twitter @sferguson_LR.


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