Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has announced that Google’s driverless car unit, Waymo, has ordered thousands of minivans as preparations to unveil an autonomous taxi service get underway. The model of the minivans being ordered is the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid.
According to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles delivery of the cars which will be equipped with the self-driving software and hardware developed by Waymo will take place later this year. The driverless minivans will be used by Waymo as it seeks to expand tests in more cities in the United States. No information was provided by Waymo with regards to the exact number of minivans ordered or which cities are being targeted next for tests.
So far Waymo’s self-driving technology has been tested in a total of 25 cities in the United States. One of the cities where Waymo recently announced that it had begun undertaking tests is Atlanta, Georgia. At the moment there are also other tests being conducted on public roads and highways in Phoenix, Arizona; Mountain View, California; Kirkland, Washington and Austin, Texas.
The high number of minivans that Waymo had ordered from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is a sign that the relationship between the two firms has deepened greatly since they began their partnership. It is also an indication that Waymo is nearing commercialization of autonomous car technology after years of research and development.
In May 2016 Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Waymo disclosed that they had entered into a partnership to develop approximately 100 minivans equipped with the autonomous car system of the Google driverless car unit. The two worked closely in designing the minivans to ensure Waymo’s driverless car systems including computers and sensors were easily accommodated. Seven months later the driverless minivans were ready. Last year Fiat Chrysler Automobiles made a delivery of an additional 500 minivans.
“In order to move quickly and efficiently in autonomy, it is essential to partner with like-minded technology leaders. Our partnership with Waymo continues to grow and strengthen; this represents the latest sign of our commitment to this technology,” said the chief executive officer of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Sergio Marchionne, in a statement.
It is understood that Waymo will begin offering the driverless taxi services in the city of Phoenix this year. In April last year an early rider program was launched in which testers have been using the service in an experimental basis. However the driverless minivans have been riding around with a test driver ready to take the wheel should anything go wrong.