Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has agreed to supply Waymo with “thousands” of Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans for use as autonomous vehicles. The announcement follows more than a year of collaboration between the two companies, which included a previous batch of 600 Pacificas that Waymo converted into self-driving test vehicles.
The expanded partnership between the two companies comes shortly after Waymo announced it will expand its self-driving-vehicle program to Atlanta. The southern site marks the 25th city in which Waymo has tested its autonomous vehicles. Other cities include Detroit, Michigan; Kirkland, Washington; Austin, Texas; Phoenix, Arizona; and Mountain View, California, as well as a handful of additional cities surrounding the latter two locations.
By expanding its testing beyond the sunny and predictable climates of Arizona and California, Waymo is looking to ensure its autonomous technology can react properly to road conditions in unpredictable weather. Waymo claims its cars are currently capable of Level 4 autonomy and that the vehicle does not need driver interaction in select conditions on predetermined routes. In fact, certain Waymo Pacifica vans in the Phoenix area are currently operating sans backup safety drivers.
Ultimately, Waymo hopes to achieve Level 5 automation, which would allow its self-driving technology to replace human drivers in all conditions. It will probably need a lot more test Pacificas, however, before it reaches that goal.