Up to 62,000 Pacifica minivans to join self-driving fleet
FCA and Waymo have announced a significant expansion in their partnership that will see up to 62,000 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans join the Waymo self-driving fleet, starting later this year. The companies are also discussing licensing Waymo self-driving technology for use in an FCA-manufactured vehicle to be sold to retail customers.
Though Waymo announced earlier this year it will have 20,000 self-driving Jaguar I-Pace electric vehicles on the road within two years, the Pacifica Hybrid has always been a key part of the company’s plan to launch the world’s first autonomous transportation service. Since the start of the collaboration, which was announced in May 2016, FCA has delivered 600 Pacifica Hybrids to Waymo. Many are already being used to test Waymo’s self-driving technology in real world conditions.
“Pacifica is the perfect vehicle to launch a service like this,” says Waymo CEO John Krafcik. “It is on a brand new platform, with sliding doors and three rows of seats, is a Top Safety Pick, plus it is a hybrid.”
Supplying the Waymo fleet gives FCA a welcome bump in Chrysler Pacifica volume over the next few years. But the revelation that it’s holding discussions over licensing Waymo self-driving technology is the more strategically important element of the announcement for the embattled automaker.
“FCA is committed to bringing self-driving technology to our customers in a manner that is safe, efficient, and realistic,” says FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne. However, FCA, still struggling to manage an unwieldy portfolio of brands and products, lacks the resources to go it alone on autonomous vehicle development. “Strategic partnerships, such as the one we have with Waymo, will help to drive innovative technology to the forefront,” concedes Marchionne.
Waymo is happy to enable OEMs who want a personal-use license for self-driving technology, says Krafcik. He says Waymo is focused on building ride-hailing and transportation services, trucking and logistics services, and connecting people to existing public transportation services. “We’re not a car company, we’re not making cars,” Krafcik says. “We’re focused on building the driver. That’s all we’re focused on.”