See how self-driving cars prepare for the real world inside a private testing facility owned by Google’s autonomous car company, Waymo.
DETROIT — Waymo, founded as the self-driving car arm of Google, will buy “thousands” of additional Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans for its planned autonomous ride-hailing service, Fiat Chrysler said Tuesday.
The announcement appears to represent a massive boost in the scope of the development of self-driving cars.
But it comes in conjunction with Waymo’s plans to launch the service in Phoenix this year.
Waymo had already ordered 600 Pacifica minivans, and the additional minivans are to be used as the company expands to other cities, according to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The new minivan deliveries will happen later this year.
A Fiat Chrysler said the specific number of additional minivans will depend on Waymo’s needs. Waymo indicated that the number will be used to support the launch of its ride-hailing service, but also declined to be specific. Details of the sale were not disclosed.
Waymo plans to launch the service without a human driver behind the wheel.
News that Waymo wants additional minivans follows other recent announcements on the self-driving vehicle front from the Detroit Three, with General Motors seeking approval for Chevrolet Bolts without steering wheels and Ford’s plan to buy two startups to further its autonomous vehicle efforts.
The announcement of additional minivans follows Fiat Chrysler’s pattern of partnering with other companies on self-driving vehicle development. The company is also involved in a partnership with BMW, Intel and Mobileye to develop an autonomous vehicle platform.
“In order to move quickly and efficiently in autonomy, it is essential to partner with like-minded technology leaders,” Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said in a statement. “Our partnership with Waymo continues to grow and strengthen; this represents the latest sign of our commitment to this technology.”
Waymo has tested its vehicles in 25 U.S. communities, including Detroit, not far from its headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich. Waymo, based in Mountain View, Calif., has not said to which areas it plans to expand its ride-hailing service after launching in Phoenix, which is already a major test area for Waymo.
“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,” Waymo CEO John Krafcik said. “The Pacifica Hybrid minivans offer a versatile interior and a comfortable ride experience, and these additional vehicles will help us scale.”
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