To kick off the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week, Waymo’s CEO John Krafcik gave the opening keynote speech where he talked about a bunch of things as it pertains to Waymo. And even unveiled the latest version of the Chrysler Pacifica with their self-driving technology included. Krafcik had announced that they brought all of their sensors in-house, which makes them cheaper to produce but it also means that they have experts in-house to work on these sensors and make them better.
The new Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid looks very sleek, much sleeker than some of the other autonomous cars we’ve seen unveiled in recent months from other car makers working on autonomous vehicles these days. There are 100 Chrysler Pacifica’s in Waymo’s test fleet, and they will be deployed later this month for testing on public roads in Mountain View, CA and Phoenix, AZ. Krafcik announced that by May of this year, Waymo’s self-driving vehicles will have driven 3 million miles, collectively. Which is more than any of the other competitors out there, but Waymo isn’t that far ahead of their competitors right now. Waymo appears to be taking things slow and steady when it comes to self-driving cars at this point. Of course, a big part of that is likely due to the regulation in the self-driving space right now.
Waymo is using the latest Chrysler Pacifica from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), as part of their deal they signed with the company last summer. FCA is giving Waymo about 100 Pacifica’s to join their fleet and they will be sharing the self-driving data with FCA. At one point Waymo had wanted to develop their own self-driving cars, but figured out that it wasn’t all that feasible and that it would be better to simply create the hardware needed to make a car autonomous and then partner with other companies like Fiat Chrysler and put their hardware in a vehicle like the Pacifica. Waymo chose the Pacifica as it is a much larger car than those they have tested already. But it also is the type of car they want to use for their ride-sharing program. As the Pacifica can carry more people than the other models in their fleet, not to mention it has autonomous doors which means that if someone gets out of the Pacifica and doesn’t close the door, the car won’t be stuck at the side of the road waiting for the door to close.