The highly anticipated self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid developed by Google’s Waymo and FCA has just been revealed. As a part of the project, FCA will deliver 100 Pacifica Hybrid to Google’s self-driving division, Waymo. After Waymo dresses them with autonomous driving technology, testing will commence early next year.
In terms of design, don’t be surprised if the production ready self-driving vehicle will look pretty much the original minivan. This is because both Waymo and FCA want to focus on the self-driving technology instead of styling, at least for now.
There are indeed some differences in the looks. But those are not deliberately placed to distinguish the self-driving vehicle with the standard Pacifica. As a matter of fact, every visual update is made to support the autonomous driving equipment.
For instance, we can clearly see that the self-driving Chrysler Pacifica gets a sled on the roof. It is definitely not for the show because the sled actually houses autonomous driving equipment such as cameras, onboard telematics, and sensors.
Furthermore, there are also several pods on each side of the car to place more sensors and detection kits. If we pay attention to the pictures of the car very closely, we can also notice more sensors on the grille as well as along the front fender.
Regarding the powertrain, both Waymo and FCA have not said anything. The original Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is powered by 3.6L Pentastar engine and a 16 kWh lithium-ion battery, but it is still unclear whether this configuration will make a comeback in the self-driving version or not.
But it seems like we can expect major updates since Waymo has stated that the chassis, drivetrain, and structure of the original car will be changed so that it can suit the autonomous driving operation.
When Waymo and FCA announced their cooperation to build a self-driving vehicle back in May this year, this project seems really difficult and ambitious. But it turns out, Waymo only needs seven months to develop its self-driving technology for Pacifica minivan until this stage.
According to Waymo’s CEO, John Krafcik, this rapid development has something to do with the company’s decision not to build the car from scratch. Furthermore, Waymo is not an automaker so join forces with FCA and focus on what they do best really contributes to the development of this autonomous driving project.
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“FCA’s product development and manufacturing teams have been agile partners, enabling us to go from program kickoff to full vehicle assembly in just six months,” said Krafcik, emphasizing the good partnership between his company and Fiat Chrysler.
The testing that is planned to be done next year is not the self-driving minivan first time hitting the road. As a matter of fact, the vehicle has also been tested secretly at Waymo’s facilities in California. Besides, it also has some experience going around FCA’s proving ground in Arizona and Michigan.
It is not confirmed yet, but it is possible that the autonomous Pacifica will be brought to next year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to be officially revealed as well as a part of the testing.
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