Google is about to put about 100 new self-driving minivans on the road through a partnership with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
This is the first time Google has worked directly with an automaker to create its self-driving vehicles. Previously, the company built its test fleet by independently buying Lexus SUVs and retrofitting them with its technology and by building a second model completely from scratch.
In this case, FCA will work closely with Google’s team to specifically design minivans where it will be easy to install its self-driving systems, from both a hardware and software perspective.
“Collaborations like these are an important part of realizing the potential of self-driving technology to improve road safety and make transportation more accessible for millions of people,” the company writes in a blog post announcing the news.
Google says that it hopes the first new cars will be on the road by the end of the year.
Here’s the full statement from Google:
We’ve expanded our testing program to a total of four U.S. cities over the last several months, so it’s time to add more vehicles to our fleet. We’re planning to more than double our fleet with the initial addition of about 100 new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans, and we hope the first few will be on the road by the end of this year.
This collaboration with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is the first time we’ve worked directly with an automaker to create our vehicles.FCA will design the minivans so it’s easy for us to install our self-driving systems, including the computers that hold our self-driving software, and the sensors thatenable our software to see what’s on the road around the vehicle.The minivan design also 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.
In the coming months,our team will collaborate closely with FCA engineers. Thisexperience will help both teams better understand how to create a fully self-driving car that can take you from A to B with the touch of a button. Collaborations like these are an important part of realizing the potential of self-driving technology to improve road safety and make transportation more accessible for millions of people.