Google’s self-driving minivans are finally here
Waymo offered a first look at its fleet of hybrid Chrysler Pacifica minivans today, showing off vehicles that pack an array of sensors and software that enable autonomous operation.
The self-driving fleet of 100 minivans from Waymo (which is run by Google’s parent company, Alphabet) will hit the streets in early 2017.
“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,” said John Krafcik, Waymo’s CEO, in a blog post today.
The company hasn’t revealed where the minivans will be located. Testing markets could include California, Washington, Arizona and Texas. Prototypes of the vehicles were tested at proving grounds in Michigan, Arizona and California.
Waymo’s fleet is the result of years of investment in self-driving technology and prototypes by Google. Apple was also supposedly planning to build its own self-driving car. At one point, rumors even claimed the first Apple prototypes looked like a minivan.
Apple reportedly reigned in its automotive ambitions at the end of the summer, choosing to focus on creating a self-driving software platform rather than an actual Apple car. It’s unclear how much progress has been made on the project since Apple vet Bob Mansfield took charge of the so-called Project Titan.
The Waymo minivans are equipped with the company’s latest self-driving technology, a suite of updated sensors, all-new computers and other major system updates. Before going into production, Waymo and Chrysler put early prototypes though 200 hours of extreme-weather testing, but your chances of driving one soon in normal conditions are practically zero.