Ride-hailing service Waymo and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) are extending their partnership to create the world’s first driverless ride-hailing service. FCA will be supplying Waymo with thousands of Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans to make this service a reality.
Waymo and FCA already have a fleet of Pacifica hybrids that started testing on public roads last November. This marked the first time a vehicle attained what is known as Level 4 autonomy. They’ve tested the technology in 25 cities across the country including Atlanta, San Francisco, Detroit, Phoenix, and Kirkland, Washington.
These Pacifica minivans are some of the most technologically advanced vehicles on the road today. They’re specially equipped with a suite of hardware from Waymo along with its self-driving software.
That software has been carefully honed through extensive testing. It’s seen more than 4 million miles of on-road testing and billions of miles in simulation. Waymo is now confident enough in their product to roll it out to the public.
The plan is to expand the ride-hailing service with autonomous cars available to the public in Phoenix, Arizona later this year. That’s just the start. Waymo will continue adding autonomous minivans to its fleet as it expands its service area across the country.
The idea of autonomous cars is one the public is still having a hard time accepting. It sounds like a cool idea and it looks cool when you see it on a futuristic show or in the movies, but trusting the technology right now isn’t so easy.
There are plenty of cars on the market with driver assist technologies that control steering, braking, and acceleration, but they operate in limited circumstances. People have a hard time with it now and there have been accidents while some of the more advanced technology was in use. This erodes people’s confidence even further.
The younger people are, the more likely they are to accept it, but there are still a large number of people who are unwilling to give the technology a chance. Services like Waymo’s are one way to ease people into the idea of giving up the wheel.
Deliveries of this latest batch of Pacifica hybrid minivans is set to begin late this year with deployment as a part of Waymo’s fleet soon to follow.