Google has announced it intends to double the size of its fleet of driverless cars and introduce 100 new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans.
The announcement, which was posted on the Google+ page for the search giant’s Self-Driving Car Project, seems to debunk rumours that Ford was getting ready to team up with Google to mass-produce driverless vehicles.
Google said that its driverless project had expanded to four US cities over the last few months and that it hoped the first Chryslers would hit the roads by by the end of 2016.
“This collaboration with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is the first time we’ve worked directly with an automaker to create our vehicles,” it said.
“FCA will design the minivans so it’s easy for us to install our self-driving systems, including the computers that hold our self-driving software and the sensors that enable our software to see what’s on the road around the vehicle.”
“The minivan design also gives us an opportunity to test a larger vehicle that could be easier for passengers to enter and exit, particularly with features like hands-free sliding doors.”
The vehicle will be larger than other driverless cars that have been trialled by the company, putting the autonomous systems to the test as they adapt to vehicles with a greater footprint on the roads.
The testing of the larger Chryslers also hints at a future dominated by driverless public transport vehicles or taxis.
However, other companies are already making strides with larger driverless vehicles such as a recent demonstration of truck platooning that could drive the cost of long-distance freight transport for consumer goods down while reducing its environmental impacts.
“In the coming months, our team will collaborate closely with FCA engineers,” Google said, concluding its post.
“This experience will help both teams better understand how to create a fully self-driving car that can take you from A to B with the touch of a button.
“Collaborations like these are an important part of realizing the potential of self-driving technology to improve road safety and make transportation more accessible for millions of people.”
Competition over the new technology is picking up. Chinese search engine giant Baidu, which is often cited as Google’s Far East equivalent, also announced last week that it will start producing and testing driverless cars.