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Waymo buys 'thousands' of minivans for self-driving domination

Fiat Chrysler will supply the Google spinoff with a whole lot more of its Chrysler Pacifica minivans.

Waymo Castle Test

Waymo is gearing up to launch its own self-driving shuttle service, but before it does, it'll need more cars -- a lot more cars.

Waymo and Fiat Chrysler announced on Tuesday that the automaker will supply the Google spinoff with "thousands" of Chrysler Pacifica minivans in order to swell its fleet of self-driving cars sufficiently ahead of any service rollout.

The interior is outfitted with a screen that allows riders to see what the car's sensors "see" as it cruises down the road, whether it's pedestrians or lane markers.


As of right now, Waymo has a fleet of 600 Pacificas, so this announcement marks a serious jump forward. Waymo receives the minivans from FCA, and it then outfits them with the hardware and software required to enable SAE Level 4 autonomy, which means a driver is not required as a failsafe in certain modes.

The AV developer intends to launch a single driverless pilot program in Phoenix this year, but the minivans aren't for that city alone. Instead, it's thinking about expanding the program and preparing to launch similar programs in other locations.

"With the world's first fleet of fully self-driving vehicles on the road, we've moved from research and development to operations and deployment," said Waymo CEO John Krafcik in a statement. "The Pacifica Hybrid minivans offer a versatile interior and a comfortable ride experience, and these additional vehicles will help us scale."

Fiat Chrysler will deliver the first round of new Pacificas to Waymo later this year. Specific fleet sizes and delivery timetables were not made public. FCA remains Waymo's sole automaker partner -- previous talks with others, including Honda, appear to have stalled for the time being.