Fiat Chrysler and Google partnered up earlier this year to build some self-driving minivans, and without any clear direction for the partnership, many have wondered why Alphabet chose Chrysler — and why specifically they’re building a self-driving Pacifica. Now we know that at least part of the decision was because of the Pacifica’s electronic doors…

Daniel Rosenband, an Alphabet engineer on the self-driving car team, earlier this week gave a talk at the Hot Chips semiconductor conference and said that people expect a self-driving car to do more than just self-drive — they also expect that it will close its own door. Here’s what he had to say on the topic (via MIT Technology Review):

“We realized if you drop people off in a self-driving car they expect the car to do what it’s going to do—and that includes closing its door,” Rosenband said.

It makes sense. In the long term, as these cars begin to be utilized for ridesharing, they’ll need to have a way to make sure doors can open and close without depending on the riders to do the right thing — or needing to call for human help. If a car didn’t have this feature and the rider neglected to close the door — either because they’re in a rush or they simply forgot — then it would be stuck helpless.

This comment comes just three weeks after we learned that long-time CTO and director of Alphabet’s self-driving car project Chris Urmson has left the Mountain View company after having been on the project for seven years. We also heard that two other early — and crucial — members of the project, including Jiajun Zhu and Dave Ferguson left.

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Stephen Hall

Stephen is Growth Director at 9to5. If you want to get in touch, follow me on Twitter. Or, email at stephen (at) 9to5mac (dot) com, or an encrypted email at hallstephenj (at) protonmail (dot) com.