Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans are much less challenging in appearance

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans are much less challenging in appearance

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has partnered with Waymo (previously known as the Google self-driving car project) to carry out detailed research into autonomous vehicles.

Work on 100 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans began in May 2016. It involves installation of a purpose-built computer and a suite of sensors, telematics and other systems. The Pacificas will will join Waymo’s test fleet in early 2017.

Engineering modifications to the Pacifica Hybrid’s electrical, powertrain, chassis and structural systems are implemented to optimise the Pacifica Hybrid for Waymo’s fully self-driving technology.

Waymo and FCA co-located part of their engineering teams to a facility in Michigan, USA, to accelerate the development process. In addition, extensive testing was carried out at FCA’s proving grounds in Chelsea, Michigan, and Yucca, Arizona, as well as Waymo test sites in California.

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

John Krafcik, Chief Executive Officer, Waymo, says. “The Pacifica Hybrid will be a great addition to our fully self-driving test fleet. FCA’s product development and manufacturing teams have been agile partners, enabling us to go from program kick-off to full vehicle assembly in just six months,”

Self-driving cars have the potential to prevent some of the 1.2 million deaths each year on roads worldwide, about 94 percent of which are caused by human error.

A billion miles of simulation testing is carried out each year on various models. Waymo, under the Google banner, has previously fitted self driving equipment to cars from Audi, Lexus and Toyota amongst others. Then of course there’s the cute little original Google car with a face that only its mother could love.

To date the Google / Waymo self-driving cars have driven over two million miles on public roads across four U.S. cities. In October 2015, the company achieved the world’s first fully self-driving trip on public roads, in a car without a steering wheel or pedals.

The best known of all Google Cars looks somewhat odd

The best known of all Google Cars looks somewhat odd

Between them Fiat and Chrysler have close to 200 years in automotive design and research, dating back to the late 19th century in the case of Fiat. This partnership with Waymo takes them into an all-new era.

We will closely follow the work and report on it as details become available. We can’t wait to get into the driver’s seat – Whoops! that should be passenger seat – and try them for yourselves.

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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