Waymo ramps up self-driving fleet with 'thousands' of cars

The Verge

The Verge

EPA testing also established a total driving range rating of 566 miles (911 km), and set the electric-only range rating at 33 miles (53 km).

Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles announced Tuesday that Waymo has ordered thousands of Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans for delivery by the end of this year as Google's self-driving subsidiary expands its driverless ride-hailing service to multiple cities.

Sergio Marchionne, FCAU CEO said in a statement that it is important to form association with like-minded technology leaders in order to move swiftly and efficiently in autonomy. Waymo announced it was in discussions with Honda Motor Co.in late 2016 but hasn't shared any partnership details.

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"With the world's first fleet of fully self-driving vehicles on the road, we've moved from research and development to operations and deployment", Waymo CEO John Krafcik said in the release. It's the third such deal between the Italian-American carmaker and the search giant: Waymo scored 100 Chrysler hybrid minivans in 2016 and another 500 previous year. They will start testing in the Detroit area soon, with each Pacifica Hybrid having a "highly-trained" driver inside.

Waymo has already tested its autonomous technology in 25 US cities, and adding thousands of Pacifica Hybrids will support the expansion of its service.

GM president Dan Ammann argued last fall that the first company to deploy self-driving taxis at scale, meaning by the thousands, will enjoy a significant "first mover" advantage. Waymo and FCA haven't said how many thousands of minivans will be added to the driverless vehicle fleet, however.

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Waymo already turned 600 Chrysler Pacifica minivans into self-driving vehicles, but apparently, those aren't enough for the company's upcoming taxi service.

FCA and Waymo kicked off their partnership in May 2016, after which the first batch of 100 minivans was shipped to the Google-owned company. The cars will be put into play through Waymo's planned autonomous ride-hailing service that will launch, says both companies, in Phoenix this year.

The Waymo vehicles are at Level Four autonomy, a classification determined by the Society of Automotive Engineers.

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