Google’s next self-driving cars are staying away from sexy and sleek for now, by going full-on minivan: Enter the Chrysler 2017 Pacifica Hybrid minivan.
Fiat Chrysler and Alphabet, Google’s parent company, announced today a partnership to make more than 100 of the self-driving minivans. The companies have been in talks for a few months, according to the Financial Times. The vans will more than double Google’s current armada of autonomous cars.
As you’d expect, Fiat Chrysler build the cars, and Google will oversee autonomous development. It’s an open relationship for both companies, and each can work with other partners in driverless technology. Additionally, Fiat Chrysler won’t lay claim to any of Google’s driverless tech — the tech that the federal government legally treats as a human driver — that they’ve been working on since 2014.
Google has already driven more than 1.5 million autonomous miles in their prototype cars.
Fiat Chrysler “has a nimble and experienced engineering team and the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan is well-suited for Google’s self-driving technology,” John Krafcik, CEO of Google’s self-driving car project, said in a statement. “The opportunity to work closely with FCA engineers will accelerate our efforts to develop a fully self-driving car that will make our roads safer and bring everyday destinations within reach for those who cannot drive.
Design, testing, and manufacturing will be done at a mutual facility in Michigan. Google’s self-driving car team will test the autonomous minivans on their private test track in California before they hit the open roads.
This partnership is unusual in the newly competitive autonomous car market. Lyft and GM have a partnership, but other than that, companies have been working solo and only collaborating to lobby the government.
On the tech side, Apple, Nvidia, and Uber have been developing technology. Many different manufacturers are working on autonomous tech as well, including Tesla, Ford, and BMW.