Yesterday, Google gave expecting audiences the first look at the self-driving cars that will headline their Waymo project. The fully autonomous vehicles are hybrid Chrysler Pacifica minivans embedded with Google technology that will debut in 2017.
In a Medium post, John Krafcik, Waymo’s CEO, explained they are were now adding a hundred Pacifica minivans to Waymo’s fleet after a joint effort between his company and FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles).
Waymo has been continuously probing the Pacifica’s resilience and aptitude by putting them through a series of tests, including a 200-hour extreme-weather examination. Initial production started earlier in October of this year.
What can the Waymo-Chrysler hybrid minivans do?
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The Pacifica minivans all contain a set of sensors designed to detect pedestrians, cyclists (and motorists), other vehicles, road work, and every other plausible obstacle on a paved way from a distance of “up to two football fields away in all directions.”
According to the official announcement, the car should be able to detect even the smallest nuances, such as a cyclist raising his or her left arm to signal a left turn or lane change.
Waymo wants its vehicles to perform complex autonomous tasks in real-life situations without the need for a human controller.
The company has even “taught” their cars to “drive defensively,” meaning their software will keep them away from blind spots and large vehicles.
Before the addition of Chrysler’s Pacifica minivans, Waymo employed two types of vehicles for their fleet, an unmarked prototype compact, and a Lexus RX450h SUV. The company’s goal focuses, primarily, on lowering car accident statistics in the United States.
Waymo-Chrysler Pacifica minivans, specs, features, and details
The Pacifica minivan already enjoys some fame from its semi-autonomous features, including LaneSense detectors, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, and other road assistants.
The family car packs a 566-mile total driving range, divided between the 16kWh lithium-ion battery and the Pentastar standard Atkinson-cycle 3.6-liter engine. The Pacifica is a sturdy vehicle, even capable of towing average loads.
Total system horsepower for the minivan is 260, with torque figures not yet released. The manufacturers expect the Society of Automotive Engineers, SAE International, to release guidelines for torque in hybrid drivetrains before putting out official specs.
The Pacifica also sports the E-Connect entertainment system and assistant, though it is unclear whether the Waymo variants will keep it. Internally, it is a 7-seater with sliding possibilities for a total of eight passengers.