Google-owned self-driving car software firm Waymo said Tuesday that FCA will provide it with “thousands” of Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans.
That’s in addition to the 600-plus Pacifica vans Waymo has already converted to self-driving vehicles it’s using to test out the software in more than two dozen cities. Waymo and FCA haven’t said how many thousands of minivans will be added to the driverless car fleet, however.
“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,” said Waymo CEO John Krafcik. “The Pacifica Hybrid minivans offer a versatile interior and a comfortable ride experience, and these additional vehicles will help us scale.”
The Pacifica minivan makes sense as a test-bed for a variety of reasons. It’s a large enough vehicle to accommodate both passengers and the myriad testing gear festooned to its roof and fenders. At around $40,000 to start, the Pacifica Hybrid qualifies for additional federal and in some cases local incentives. And FCA isn’t nearly as involved in developing self-driving cars on its own as the automaker’s more resource-dense rivals in Detroit, General Motors and Ford.
Waymo is using its current driverless Pacifica van fleet to shuttle beta testers around suburban Phoenix as part of its Early Rider program that launched last year, the first such program opened to the public. Additional, smaller tests are underway in Atlanta, San Francisco, Detroit, and suburban Seattle.