Waymo buys thousands more Chrysler vans for driverless service

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The vehicle unit of Google parent Alphabet has made a deal to purchase thousands more minivans from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles equipped for autonomous driving, the companies said. And while the business model for making money off these robots is still opaque-will it sell its software to carmakers, or maybe manage its own nationwide fleet of self-driving taxis?-it's moving full speed ahead.

The Pacificas that FCA supplies to the tech company are specifically created to integrate Waymo's autonomous driving hardware and software.

Waymo, the self-driving Google spin-off, is getting ready to seriously expand its operations.

Sergio Marchionne, CEO at FCA said in a statement, "In order to move quickly and efficiently in autonomy, it is essential to partner with like-minded technology leaders".

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The company began testing its self-driving minivans on public roads - with no one at the wheel - late a year ago. The company is also testing the technology on public roads in Texas, Austin, Mountain View, Calif., Kirkland, Wash., and Phoenix, Ariz.

Delivery of the additional minivans will begin later this year and will support expansion of the Waymo service to additional cities. From the research and development stage to the commercial enterprise - Waymo has certainly progressed a lot. "Our partnership with Waymo continues to grow and strengthen (and) this represents the latest sign of our commitment to this technology".

In May 2016, the companies announced an association to manufacture about 100 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans equipped with Waymo's self-driving system. The minivans are created to accommodate the self-driving systems of Google, including the sensors and the computers.

This is in addition to the 600 Pacifica Hybrid minivans FCA has delivered to Google in 2016 and 2017. The initial users would be part of the company's early rider program, which launched in the Phoenix area in April. Travis Kalanick, the founder and former CEO of Uber had predicted that by removing the driver the cost of his service would come down so dramatically it would, for millions of Americans, replace private vehicle ownership. Fewer than a third (28%) of drivers would trust a self-driving vehicle, according to the survey.

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