Google Teams Up With Fiat Chrysler To Create 100 Self-Driving Minivans
There will be a fleet of minivans soon to be released by Alphabet Inc.'s Google and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.
The two giants have decided to build 100 2017 Pacifica minivans with plug-in hybrid drivetrains. This will join Google's expanding fleet of "self-driving test vehicles".
This collaboration marked two major firsts for Google as well as the self-driving car industry.
Till recently, Google's fleet included only the Lexus RX and its own prototypes. They are both standard vehicles. Still, the 2017 Pacifica is a minivan, hence, it is the first time that Google gets access to a shuttle that is created to carry a lot of passengers. Google views this as an important step in bringing out a self-driving technology to the market.
They will have some custom modifications made by FCA. Google will fit them with autonomous hardware and software, which will work together at a facility in Southeast Michigan. This is an area where FCA has a major North American engineering center.
This is much beyond what Google did with the Lexus RX. That had got retrofitted but had no manufacturing partnership with Lexus or Toyota.
It is the first time that Google has worked directly with an automaker "to integrate its self-driving system, including its sensors and software, into a passenger vehicle."
"The opportunity to work closely with FCA engineers will accelerate our efforts to develop a fully self-driving car that will make our roads safer and bring everyday destinations within reach for those who cannot drive," John Krafcik, chief executive of the Google Self-Driving Car Project, said in a statement.
Interestingly, a Silicon Valley firm has joined hands with a conventional carmaker to develop an autonomous vehicle. Unlike automakers such as Daimler, BMW, and Audi, which have built up their own expertise in software, artificial intelligence, machine learning and sensors, Fiat Chrysler has made it clear that developing autonomous vehicles and digital businesses on its own is too risky.
Google declared its happiness in having launched the partnership, explaining: "we're excited FCA will be the first we integrate with," and "we will be working with many different partners going forward."