At 2017’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit, we’ll get a look at the fully autonomous Pacifica Hybrid on which Chrysler and Google’s Waymo are collaborating.
Rumors of the death of the minivan are, well, dead. They had come to symbolize a boring and dated way to ferry around the family. But now, the segment’s pioneer has breathed an edgy new life into the role the minivan can have in our motoring lives.
Chrysler and Google – which recently renamed its autonomous-tech division Waymo – have teamed up to put 100 Pacifica Hybrid minivans on the road, complete with the ability to handle the driving.
This unique partnership – FCA says it’s the first of its kind – has Chrysler bringing the minivan and Waymo contributing its self-driving tech. Mods to these Pacifica Hybrids are comprehensive, with significant changes to the powertrain, chassis, electrical and structural systems.
The locations for development and testing of these Pacifica Hybrids reflect the different areas from which FCA and Waymo harken. Each company has located part of their engineering teams in southeastern Michigan, and the minivans will hit the proving grounds in Michigan and Arizona. California’s Waymo testing sites will also host the partnership’s efforts.
While there may be some trepidation from the public about self-driving cars, FCA sees an opportunity to reduce the 1.2 million fatalities that occur worldwide – with 94% of them attributed to human error.
And the minivan seems like a perfect match for this role, as the high-optioned models can already feel like rolling living rooms. As image rehabilitations go, the transformation of the minivan from staid symbol of blandness to pushing the forefront autonomous tech is a big one.