Google teams with Fiat Chrysler on self-driving minivan

Google and Fiat are on the way to solving one of the world’s most intractable problems: how to make a minivan cool. And the two firms have probably found the only possible solution: make it drive itself.

The tech giant and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will put Google’s self-driving technology into about 100 2017 Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans, the two companies announced Tuesday.

It’s Google’s first such agreement with a major carmaker. The move will more than double Google’s robot-car fleet, which now has a total of 70 Lexus SUVs and Google-built bubble-shaped prototype cars.

“(Fiat Chrysler) will design the minivans so it’s easy for us to install our self-driving systems, including the computers that hold our self-driving software, and the sensors that enable our software to see what’s on the road around the vehicle,” Google said in its announcement. “The minivan design also gives us an opportunity to test a larger vehicle that could be easier for passengers to enter and exit, particularly with features like hands-free sliding doors.”

Fiat Chrysler said the two companies would locate members of their engineering teams at a southeastern Michigan facility, and that Google would begin testing the autonomous minivans later this year. Google said it would test the minivans on its track before putting them on the roads.

Google’s CEO for its self-driving car unit, John Krafcik, said working with the automaker would “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.”

Google has also entered into a partnership with Ford and Volvo, along with ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft, to lobby governments and regulators amid their push to get driverless cars on U.S. roads.


Photo: A 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, the base for Google self-driving technology in a partnership between the tech titan and Fiat Chrysler (courtesy Fiat Chrysler)


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