waymo driverless car

Waymo to launch driverless taxi service with Chrysler minivans

Image credit: reuters

Waymo has announced it will launch the world’s first driverless ride-hailing service with thousands of minivans supplied by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).

Waymo, which develops autonomous cars and is a subsidiary of Google's parent company Alphabet, first received 100 of FCA’s Pacifica Hybrid minivans during the second half of 2016 which it adapted with its driverless technology.

This was followed by an additional 500 in 2017 and it now plans to buy thousands extra in order to turn it into a commercial proposition.

“In order to move quickly and efficiently in autonomy, it is essential to partner with like-minded technology leaders,” said Sergio Marchionne, Fiat Chrysler CEO. “Our partnership with Waymo continues to grow and strengthen; this represents the latest sign of our commitment to this technology.” 

Neither Waymo or FCA said exactly how many vehicles were being bought, but considering the Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivan starts at $39,995 (£28,315) the deal is expected to be worth tens of millions of pounds at a minimum.

The first autonomous ride-hailing service is due to be launched in Phoenix, Arizona, later this year and additional minivans will be used to support Waymo as it expands its service to more cities across the United States.

Waymo has officially tested its technology in 25 cities across the US, including Atlanta, San Francisco, Metro Detroit, Phoenix and Kirkland, Washington.

“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 John Krafcik, CEO of Waymo. “The Pacifica Hybrid minivans offer a versatile interior and a comfortable ride experience, and these additional vehicles will help us scale.”

Last November, Waymo began test-driving a fleet of Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans on public roads without a driver at the wheel. With this technical milestone, the hybrid minivans became the first vehicle to attain Level 4 autonomy, a classification determined by the Society of Automotive Engineers.

The self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans are some of the most advanced vehicles on the road today, equipped with Waymo’s powerful hardware suite. The self-driving minivans are also running Waymo’s self-driving software, which has been honed with more than six million kilometres of on-road testing, and billions of kilometres in simulation.

This first-of-its-kind collaboration brought engineers from FCA and Waymo together to integrate Waymo’s fully self-driving system into the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan.

In November Waymo announced it was partnering with America’s largest automotive retailer AutoNation to maintain and repair its fleet of vehicles around the country. 

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