According to a report that surfaced two weeks ago, Google recently decided to scrap any plans it may have had to build a self-driving car of its own. Instead, the search giant was said to be interested in partnering up with traditional car markers while refocusing its efforts on developing self-driving technologies.
True to form, Google last night announced the fruits of its partnership with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Specifically, the search giant’s autonomous vehicle division, now called Waymo, will add 100 heavily modified and self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans to its growing fleet of autonomous vehicles.
In a post published to Medium, Waymo CEO John Krafcik said that his team has been working with Chrysler since May to outfit the relatively sleek Pacifica Hybrid with the company’s cutting edge autonomous driving technologies and sensors. Notably, the project was far more intensive than simply adding a few external sensors to the minivan. On the contrary, the initiative involved sweeping changes to the “minivan’s electrical, powertrain, chassis and structural systems” in order to optimize all aspects of the underlying technology.
Krafcik also explained that the self-driving minivan has already been subject to an extensive amount of testing.
Using several of our early prototype minivans, we’ve already run a gamut of tests, including over 200 hours of extreme-weather testing. Before starting production in October, we’d put these early vehicles through their paces at our own test track in California, and FCA’s Chelsea Proving Grounds in Chelsea, MI and their Arizona Proving Grounds in Yucca, AZ.
Getting from program kickoff to production and full vehicle assembly in half a year is a testament to the strong teamwork and collaboration between FCA and Waymo engineers.
As a final point, Krafcik added that Waymo is aiming to bring its new minivans to public roads sometime in 2017.