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Over the past year Google’s self-driving vehicles have been seen on roads in U.S. cities like Phoenix, Arizona and Kirkland, Washington, and with Google’s recent partnership with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), we’ll continue to see cars powered by Google technologies on the American roadways.
Earlier this month, Google confirmed that they have partnered with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) to build 100 2017 Chrysler Pacifica minivans equipped with Google’s self-driving technology. Adding the Pacifica will more than double Google’s current fleet of self-driving cars that consists of a small group of Lexus vehicles and Google’s own fleet of prototypes.
FCA will continue to design and build the Pacifica, but Google will install the self-driving system, which includes the computers that carry the software and the sensors that allow the car to see its surroundings.
The key to this partnership is that it is the first time that Google’s self-driving technology will be incorporated into a vehicle that’s available for the public to buy. Additionally, it gives Google the ability to test a larger vehicle can carry multiple passengers that can enter and exit the vehicle in different ways, like hands-free sliding doors.
Google said: “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.”
Fiat Chrysler’s CEO added: “Working with Google provides an opportunity for FCA to partner with one of the world’s leading technology companies to accelerate the pace of innovation in the automotive industry.”
Another unique take on this partnership is that later this year, the Chrysler Pacifica will be available as the world’s first plug-in hybrid minivan, which is also in-line with Google’s image.
Google may also have picked a minivan because the body style is ideal for future autonomous-driving, ride-sharing or ride-hailing services. Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director for Kelley Blue Book, stated: “If I were Uber looking to replace my fleet with self-driving cars, a minivan would be a great people hauler,” said Nerad. “It makes sense to test in vehicles appropriate for large volume use cases.”
With Google’s self-driving tech working alongside the pre-existing surround view camera, ParkSense parking assist, adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning, the 2017 Pacifica could be the best glimpse at the future of driving we’ve seen from FCA so far.