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Google’s self-driving cars will hit public roads this month

Zach Epstein
January 9th, 2017 at 9:37 AM
Google Self-Driving Cars Waymo

We weren’t sure how this year’s North American International Auto Show was going to fare considering all of the car news at CES 2017 last week, but the Detroit show got off to a big start on Sunday. Waymo, the new company formed when Google spun off its autonomous car division in 2016, announced that its first fleet of self-driving minivans will hit public roads later this month.

Waymo gave the world a brief first look at its next-generation fleet of autonomous automobiles just last month. “As we get fully self-driving cars ready for the road, we’ll need more types of vehicles to refine and test our advanced driving software,” Waymo CEO John Krafcik wrote. “That’s why in May we teamed up with FCA to work on adding 100 self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans to Waymo’s fleet. With this great new minivan on the road in our test markets, we’ll learn how people of all ages, shapes, and group sizes experience our fully self-driving technology.”

At the time, the company said that its new fleet of self-driving minivans would hit the roads at some point in 2017. Now, just two weeks later, the company has announced that “sometime” is this very month.

Waymo already has self-driving Lexus SUVs on the roads in Mountain View, California and Phoenix, Arizona, where it has been conducting tests with manned autonomous vehicles for some time now. At some point in January, Waymo’s new Chrysler Pacifica minivan fleet will join those SUVs in both cities. What’s so special about the minivans compared to the company’s older Lexus trucks? For the first time, all of the technology and components used on these new vehicles was produced in-house, including cameras, lidar, other sensors and even mapping tech.

Here’s a shot of the new Pacifica minivans as they’ll appear on public roads beginning sometime in January:

waymo-minivan

And here’s a quick video from Waymo’s presentation at the Detroit Auto Show on Sunday:

Zach Epstein

Zach Epstein has worked in and around ICT for more than 15 years, first in marketing and business development with two private telcos, then as a writer and editor covering business news, consumer electronics and telecommunications. Zach’s work has been quoted by countless top news publications in the US and around the world. He was also recently named one of the world's top-10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes, as well as one of Inc. Magazine's top-30 Internet of Things experts.




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