It’s official: Google and Fiat Chrysler are working on the next self-driving car, and this time around, it’s not an SUV but a minivan.
To be exact, the vehicle that’ll be equipped with self-driving technology is the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica, and needless to say, manufacturing is about to get in gear.
Fiat Chrysler is set to make 100 Pacifica minivans, and they are expected to hit the roads before the end of 2016. Initially, they will be deployed in Mountain View and other Google-selected testing areas.
Analysts think that a minivan is a sensible choice for the next set of driverless cars, given that it’s in a controlled environment. Senior Analyst at Kelley Blue Book Karl Brauer thinks that it “fits into the transportation fleets easily.”
“They can be a box-on-wheels and can move more humans around,” he says.
In the same vein, Google also chimes in with the same sentiment, listing down a couple of reasons why Fiat Chrysler is the perfect partner.
“FCA [Fiat Chrysler Automobiles] 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,” Google says.
It should be noted that the agreement does not prevent either company from working with others.
This development comes hot on the heels of “late stage talks” between Google and Fiat Chrysler, and it looks like everything panned out. At some point, a rumor about Ford stepping into the spotlight even made rounds, but that has obviously been snuffed out now.
It’s also worth mentioning that the reports are well-grounded, as Google doesn’t want to manufacture self-driving vehicles independently. In other words, the company has been seeking a partnership with carmakers to carry out its ambitions on this front.
CEO of the Google Self-Driving Cars Project John Krafcik says that cooperating with the engineers of Fiat Chrysler will expedite the company’s efforts toward the goal of developing a driverless vehicle that’ll let people who can’t drive reach destinations via roads made safer with the technology.
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