Self driving vehicles are starting to get more and more popular in developed countries with the right infrastructure. Uber has also kicked off their self driving cars program in San Francisco recently, and here we are with Waymo working with the recently introduced Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan in order to introduce some self driving goodness to the lives of everyone around. Waymo has teamed up with the FCA in order to add a hundred more of these rides to their fleet. Currently undergoing testing, this new minivan will help Waymo figure out just how different people from all kinds of age groups and sizes will be able to enjoy this fully autonomous driving technology. However, something tells me that soccer moms and dads would definitely be the ones to throw their weight in support for such a ride to hit the market. It might mean the end of those hellish days where you need to juggle both you career as well as shuttling your little ones back and forth between school and their activities afterwards.
It has been a learning curve in the past half year where the joint program team has been working hard behind the scenes, making changes and modifications to the design as well as engineering of the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid. All of these changes are not meant for just cosmetics or aesthetics only, since they would be crucial to facilitate the full integration of their brand new fully self-driving systems. Learning from a number of the early prototype minivans, a series of tests have already been run before such changes were introduced, including more than 200 hours of extreme-weather testing.
To make sure that everything is as well prepared as possible before kicking off production on a large scale, these rides were thoroughly tested on Waymo’s very own test track in California, not to mention FCA’s Chelsea Proving Grounds in Chelsea, MI and their Arizona Proving Grounds in Yucca, AZ. It is said that the ultimate goal of all these testing would be to make their fully autonomous fleet of Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans be fully operational and ready to hit public roads some time in 2017.
According to Bloomberg, both Waymo and Fiat Chrysler would also look into introducing more minivans from the same setup to form a ride hailing service, which would mean additional competition to the likes of established players such as Lyft and Uber. However, there is no official confirmation that Waymo would go down that route, although Waymo's CEO, John Krafcik, did mention not too long ago that "our next step as Waymo will be to let people use our vehicles to do everyday things like run errands, commute to work, or get safely home after a night on the town."
Do you think that minivans would make for the right template when it comes to self driving vehicles? Perhaps, due to their sheer size which enables it to carry around a whole lot more equipment (sensors, etc) that might come in handy to help you get from one point to another in a safe manner.