Google's Waymo self-driving car unit is teasing photos of its fully autonomous minivans, offering a first look at the self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans.
As self-driving cars keep gaining momentum and companies strive to get the technology ready for market, Google is one of the big players forging ahead.
Just earlier this month, Google parent company Alphabet separated the self-driving car business from the search company, creating a stand-alone unit called Waymo.
Self-Driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Minivans
John Krafcik, Waymo CEO, explains that more types of cars are necessary to refine and test the company's advanced driving software. With this in mind, a collaboration with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles back in May boosted Waymo's fleet with the addition of 100 self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans.
"With this great new minivan on the road in our test markets, we'll learn how people of all ages, shapes, and group sizes experience our fully self-driving technology," says Krafcik.
The choice of minivans may seem odd to some, but the explanation may be that this type of vehicle allows for easier access and gives the company a chance to test a larger vehicle.
The company is now teasing the completed vehicles for the first time, sharing photos of the latest Waymo self-driving technology fitted with updated sensors, computer and additional system upgrades.
"Using several of our early prototype minivans, we've already run a gamut of tests, including over 200 hours of extreme-weather testing, Krafcik adds.
Waymo started production back in October and prior to that, it had put the prototypes through tests at its California test track and FCA's Chelsea and Arizona Proving Grounds in Chelsea, Michigan and Yucca, Arizona, respectively.
The self-driving minivans look just like regular Pacifica models except for the protruding autonomous sensors visible at the corners and roof of the cars. The specially fitted Pacifica Hybrid vans will hit public roads next year.
Chrysler engineers worked alongside Waymo engineers to integrate the autonomous driving technology into the vehicle design and the result looks good so far.
While the Lexus SUVs in Waymo's fleet didn't look as streamlined after being retrofitted with self-driving sensors, the new Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans look sleeker, having the sensors mounted externally instead of within the van's frame.
First Look At Waymo's Self-Driving Minivans
It remains to be seen how the fully self-driving minivans will fare when they hit the streets in 2017 in the United States, but things are looking up. Autonomous driving technology is evolving and getting closer to public release, and Waymo marks a notable milestone in this direction.
Without further ado, check out the first official images of the new Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid self-driving minivans that Alphabet's Waymo developed in collaboration with FCA engineers.