Google’s latest vehicle to join their fleet of self-driving cars, is the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica mini-van. Google and Fiat Chrysler announced the deal earlier this summer, in which Google will add 100 Chrysler Pacifica’s to their lineup. Google wanted this particular model in their fleet because it’ll be the first time that they would be able to test their software on a larger vehicle. Additionally, the Pacifica has doors that automatically close. Which may seem like a small feature to many, but Google sees it as a must-have for an autonomous car.
Now, a few images have surfaced of the fleet sitting in a San Francisco parking garage. These pictures show a good number of Pacifica’s that have been outfitted with Google’s software. What you’ll see is LIDAR sensors and cameras on their roof. But perhaps what is the most interesting about these pictures, is just how much smaller the setup is on the Pacifica, compared to the other vehicles that Google has used. It does show just how far Google has come in terms of autonomous driving. Even Uber has debuted a smaller setup, on their Ford Fusions that are roaming around Pittsburgh.
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Google plans to launch a ride-sharing service with their self-driving cars, to compete with Lyft and Uber. The company has already taken the first step with Waze, although that’s more of just a carpooling system. And the Chrysler Pacifica is a perfect vehicle for ride-sharing as they can fit more people in the car. Google does have (or will have, it’s unclear whether Google has taken delivery of them all yet) 100 Chrysler Pacifica’s that they will be putting into their testing fleet. The company is also building a new test area in the metro Detroit area to be closer to their partners, which is near where Chrysler’s global headquarters are – not to mention General Motors and Ford.
We’re still quite a ways out from seeing autonomous cars on the streets in more cities and countries, but it’s getting closer and closer to becoming a reality. And surprisingly, it’s not auto makers that are leading the way. In fact, it’s Uber, Lyft (although GM is backing them) and Google.