Fiat Chrysler and Google’s recently renamed self-driving car project, Waymo, have debuted the self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan that will soon join the tech company’s autonomous test fleet in California.
The vehicles are currently being outfitted with a purpose-built computer, sensors, telematics and other systems and should be set to hit the road in early 2017. Engineers from both Google and FCA collaborated on the project, making the electrical, powertrain, chassis and structural modifications needed to fit them with self-driving tech. When Waymo eventually takes delivery of all 100 vehicles in 2017, it will have nearly doubled the size of its autonomous test fleet.
“The Pacifica Hybrid will be a great addition to our fully self-driving test fleet. FCA’s product development and manufacturing teams have been agile partners, enabling us to go from program kickoff to full vehicle assembly in just six months,” Waymo CEO John Krafcik said in a statement.“They’ve been great partners, and we look forward to continued teamwork with them as we move into 2017.”
FCA first announced its partnership with Google in May of this year, but remained tight-lipped on exactly what it entailed for the rest of the year. The two companies said the project will help them both to “better understand what it will take to bring self-driving cars into the world.” It’s not clear if the partnership will extend beyond these 100 vehicles, however FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne has made it clear collaborations with tech companies such as this will be a big part of the automaker’s future.
“As consumers’ transportation needs evolve, strategic collaborations such as this one are vital to promoting a culture of innovation, safety and technology,” Marchionne said. “Our partnership with Waymo enables FCA to directly address the opportunities and challenges the automotive industry faces as we quickly approach a future where fully self-driving vehicles are very much a part of our daily lives.”
Last week reports emerged that Waymo intends to eventually launch a ride-sharing service using its autonomous Pacifica Hybrid. Spokespersons from both companies declined to comment on the matter. What’s more, this announcement is expected to be entirely separate from the upcoming FCA vehicle announcement at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) next month.