Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Self-driving taxis set to hit Phoenix later this year, Chrysler says

Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivan that's party of Waymo's fleet Waymo Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivan that's party of Waymo's fleet
Kelvin Reese | 31 January, 2018, 09:39

If you're interested in getting behind the metaphorical wheel of one of Waymo's self-driving taxis, the company will be opening up its ride-hailing service to Phoenix citizens sometime this year.

Google-owned self-driving auto software firm Waymo said Tuesday that FCA will provide it with "thousands" of Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans. (GM) to step up their efforts to open a self-driving ride-hailing service.

That has big implications. It could be 2,000 hybrids, or it could be in the tens of thousands, for all we know.

Image source: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Waymo's coalition with FCA is so far its only affiliation with an automaker. Engineers from both companies worked together to develop a version of FCA's well-regarded Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan adapted to Waymo's self-driving system.

Last November in Phoenix, Waymo began test-driving its fleet of minivans.

"With the world's first fleet of fully self-driving vehicles in the street, we've moved from development and research to operations and installation", Waymo manager John Krafcik said in a statement.

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The automaker delivered 100 Pacificas adapted for self-driving to Waymo in the second half of 2016, FCA said, with another 500 produced past year. WIth the new cars, the company will be able to expand in many other USA cities.

Waymo previously ordered 100 of the FCA vehicles in 2016 and another 500 past year as part of a collaboration to build autonomous cars at scale using hardware and software from the technology group. But at least for now, it still has a steering wheel.

Nearly all of the self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans of the company are now driving around Chandler & that too without a human test driver. Precisely where will depend, at least for the moment, on what states have authorized the use of completely driverless vehicles on public roads. The minivan's electrical, powertrain, chassis and structural systems make an ideal vehicle to accommodate Waymo's self-driving technology.

While the exact number is not yet known, the first minivans will be arrive in 2018. Image source: General Motors. Other players looking to get into the driverless mobility services business include the two largest of today's ride-sharing companies, Uber and Lyft.

Who will seize that advantage?

Waymo did not explain what "thousands" could possibly mean.

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