It seems that Alphabet's Waymo is looking to build up a pretty sizable fleet of self-driving cars because in an announcement by carmaker Fiat Chrysler, both companies have reached a deal which will see Waymo buy "thousands" of Chrysler Pacifica minivans which presumably will be turned into self-driving vehicles. In 2016, the automaker supplied 100 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans to the company and upped the ante to 500 in 2017.
The company already shared its intention to "soon" launch its autonomous ride-hailing service after expanding its test fleet to over 600 vehicles, many of which are modified Pacifica Hybrids.
Waymo has already tested its autonomous technology in 25 USA cities, and adding thousands of Pacifica Hybrids will support the expansion of its service.
FCA chief executive Sergio Marchionne said that in order to move quickly and efficiently in autonomy, it is vital to collaborate with like-minded tech leaders. Waymo announced it was in discussions with Honda in late 2016 but hasn't shared any partnership details. Waymo has provided no information regarding what "thousands" means or the list of cities where it will bring these self-driving minivans. The self-driving minivans are also running Waymo's self-driving software, which has been honed with more than 4 million miles of on-road testing, and billions of miles in simulation. The manufacturer's suggested retail price for the 2018 Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivan starts at $39,995.
Waymo launched its Phoenix test program in November 2017, and the service it set to officially launch in Phoenix later this year.
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Among other cities the service is being tested in include San Francisco, California, Detroit, Michigan and Kirkland, Washington. FCA will supply the first wave of minivans late this year.
In addition to the Waymo partnership, Fiat Chrysler is working on a competing system with BMW, Intel, Delphi Automotive and Continental.
First users will be included in Waymo's early rider program, which began in April in the city. Fewer than a third (28%) of drivers would trust a self-driving vehicle, according to the survey.
Last week, Waymo began testing its self-driving service in Atlanta, Georgia, making it the 25th United States city Waymo has tested its service in.