A few months ago, Alphabet and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) announced that they would be partnering up, with FCA providing Alphabet's self-driving car program 100 Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans for their project. Alphabet made it clear that all of the data that surfaces from this project would be theirs, and not FCA's. Something that turned a lot of other car makers away from working with the company. At the time that the partnership was announced, many were wondering why Alphabet wanted a self-driving minivan. And the reasoning that they gave was pretty simple. They haven't tested their software in a vehicle of this size, and they believe that minivans would be better for self-driving taxi's since they can hold more people.
However, now the MIT Technology Review is putting out some new information about this partnership. It turns out there's another reason that Alphabet wanted these Pacifica minivans. A hardware engineer working on Google's Self-Driving Car Project, Daniel Rosenband, stated that they biggest reason for them picking the Pacifica was due to its electronic doors. Now this isn't really anything new, minivans for the past few years have had doors that can open and close on their own. But with a push of a button. The Pacifica does it all on its own. Rosenband continued with "we realized if you drop people off in a self-driving car they expect the car to do what it's going to do - and that includes closing its door." It's not so much having electronic doors, but the car knowing when to open and close them, that makes the Pacifica unique.
This is also means that the Pacifica won't need human assistance at all. As Rosenband explained a bit more, if a passenger gets into the Pacifica and doesn't close the door (or gets out and doesn't close it) the car would need to get human assistance. Which could cause all kinds of problems, and it would mean that the car isn't actually completely autonomous. That's something that they want to do. Imagine getting out of an autonomous car at the airport and leave the door open, because you're rushing to get to your flight. It's something that will likely happen, and because of the electronic doors on the Pacifica, it makes things a bit better for Alphabet and their project.