Thanks to a recently inked deal with Fiat Chrysler, Google has found its next self-driving car: a minivan. The company plans on outfitting 100 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrids with its own autonomous driving software. Google hopes to have them on the road for test drives by the end of this year.
The Pacifica is quite a bit larger than the diminutive self-driving car for which Google is known, but it fulfills a new purpose. "The minivan design gives us an opportunity to test a larger vehicle that could be easier for passengers to enter and exit, particularly with features like hands-free sliding doors," Google explained in a statement detailing its partnership Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which will collaborate with the company on the Pacifica initiative.
According to a report from Bloomberg, Google is not handing over any of its proprietary technology Fiat Chrysler. Likewise, Fiat Chrysler is free to pursue its own self-driving programs with other companies. However, according to the statement from Google, "Our team will collaborate closely with FCA engineers"
and, as such, the minivans will be designed for ease of installation of Google's on-board technology.
To date, Google's self-driving car program has logged nearly 1.5 million miles of autonomous driving. According to the company's latest monthly report, Google had 54 autonomous cars on public roads — 21 Lexus SUVs and 33 of its own prototypes. Adding 100 new vehicles to its self-driving fleet will be a significant addition for Google, and comes as the company works to expand its testing grounds from Mountain View, CA, and Austin, TX, to Phoenix, AZ and Kirkland, WA.