Google Waymo unveils customized self-driving minivan

Google’s Waymo has unveiled the first images of its self-driving minivan, a customized version of the Fiat Chrysler Pacifica hybrid that has been in development for six months.

The minivan has been outfitted with all of Google’s latest self-driving technology, including an array of updated sensors, a more powerful computer system, and software updates.

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“As we get fully self-driving cars ready for the road, we’ll need more types of vehicles to refine and test our advanced driving software,” said Waymo CEO, John Krafcik. “With this great new minivan on the road in our test markets, we’ll learn how people of all ages, shapes, and group sizes experience our fully self-driving technology.”

To make all of the extra baggage fit, Waymo engineers made design changes to the Chrysler Pacifica hybrid, showing that Google’s self-driving division is capable of working and customizing automotive hardware, if the need arises.

Waymo test-drives have begun

Waymo has already run a variety of tests on the minivan at its own test track in California and Fiat’s Chelsea Proving Grounds in Michigan and Arizona Proving Grounds in Yucca, AZ, including over 200 hours of extreme weather testing.

Krafcik has not given a specific deployment date in his Medium post, but said he was “looking forward” to having the minivans on public roads by 2017. The 100 minivans will join Google’s other self-driving vehicles in Kirkland, WA, Mountain View, CA, metro Phoenix, AZ, and Austin, TX.

Waymo has not confirmed if it will build its own self-driving vehicles, or even if it really just seeking to be sold off by Google. The success of the partnership with Fiat suggests Google doesn’t need to spend billions acquiring hardware talent, though that may change once Apple, Tesla, and Uber divulge their full plans.

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