Following a report this morning from Bloomberg suggesting that Google and Chrysler were about to announce a deal that would see Google’s self-driving technology being implemented in Chrysler’s upcoming new Pacifica minivan, the CEOs of both companies have now confirmed an agreement albeit not exactly what was being discussed earlier today.
While this morning’s report suggested a plan to work on a few “dozens of self-driving prototypes” in order to later bring the technology to the production version of the Pacifica, instead the deal would now see Google buying about 100 Pacifica minivans from Chrysler to use as prototypes, but no exactly like it does with its current Lexus SUVs, and the Mountain View company will provide a “technological crash course” in self-driving technology to Chrysler though the new partnership.
Unlike with its Lexus SUV prototypes fitted with mounted sensors, the Chrysler prototypes will be tweaked to accommodate Google’s sensor suite. It will presumably more aesthetic than the current test prototypes.
Executives from both companies spoke to the media this afternoon and said that the deal does not include a plan to bring Google’s technology to Chrysler’s production vehicles.
The head of Google’s car project, John Krafcik, said while speaking to USA Today that his team liked the “nimble and focused” nature of Fiat Chrysler’s engineering team, as well as “the fact that they’re totally aligned with what we need to do at this stage, which is build more vehicles and get more testing miles under our belt.”
The Pacifica will be the third vehicle used by Google to test its self-driving car technology. It is already operating a fleet of its cute prototypes and Lexus RX450h SUVs. The Pacifica has a plug-in hybrid option equipped with a 16 kWh battery pack which allows for an all-electric range of 30 miles, according to the automaker.
It looks like it will be Google’s preferred option for the 100 prototypes based on Krafcik’s comments:
“It’s a cool vehicle for us. It’s more spacious and more flexible, and it being the only hybrid minivan in U.S. is very interesting for us, both because as a company we are environmentally and because of the car’s robust electrical architecture which is critical for self-driving vehicles.”
It’s worth noting that the “cute prototypes” are also powered by battery packs. Aside from the environmental advantages, we recently reported on studies exploring the cost benefits of combining self-driving technology, electric transport and also ride-sharing.