Chrysler and Waymo set 100 Pacifica Hybrid minivans to autopilot

Chrysler delivers 100 Pacifica minivans to newly-christened Google spin-off Waymo so it can retrofit them for self-driving.

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The sight of a Lexus RX or a tiny pod car with a spinning LiDAR array on its roof have become familiar in cities where Google tests its self-driving car technology. Now, 100 Pacifica Hybrid minivans, retrofitted by both Chrysler and Google spin-off company Waymo, join this self-driving car fleet.

Chrysler says it modified the Pacifica Hybrid minivans' drivetrain, chassis and electronics while working in conjunction with Waymo engineers. Waymo will add sensors along with a computer to process sensor data and issue driving commands, as well as use the minivans to continue testing its self-driving platform.

Waymo-modified Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans, modified by Waymo, include sensors on bumpers, front fenders and the tops of the vehicles.

Chrysler

A red hot area of research in the automotive industry, self-driving cars show potential to greatly reduce or eliminate the tens of thousands of deaths that occur on US roads every year. This technology may also reduce traffic jams, a major fuel and time waster in US cities. Along with automakers, equipment suppliers, start-ups and big tech companies like Google are all developing self-driving car technology.

Last week, Google revealed that it transformed its self-driving car project into a new company called Waymo. That company will continue to develop self-driving, and eventually license its technology to automakers and other transportation providers. Currently running a fleet of about 60 self-driving cars, the 100 Pacifica Hybrid minivans will greatly increase the number of miles it can rack up on public roads.

Chrysler's partnership with Waymo gives it a boost in the development of self-driving technology, assuming that cooperation continues. Other automakers have been developing the technology internally.

Photos released by Chrysler show the Pacifica Hybrid minivans with sensors mounted on both bumpers, the front fenders and a large structure on top of the vehicle, which includes a spinning LiDAR array, similar to that seen on previous Google self-driving cars.

Waymo says the new vehicles will begin on-road testing in 2017.

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