Self-Driving Minivans Hitting the Road

The beauty of the Detroit Auto Show each year is the fact it’s the first auto show of the new calendar making it the place where new announcements and the forward thinking and looking information can be shared. At this show Waymo announced its self-driving minivans will be on the road later this month and begin the real testing of the vehicles. The decision to use Chrysler Pacifica minivans was an easy one that came from the partnership which was forged between Google and FCA in May of 2016, bringing family sized vehicles with the autonomous technology to the roads.

In order to put a more concentrated focus into the self-driving car division Google separated this part of the company from the rest of its operations under their Alphabet company name in order to bring about the focus and increased speed of research and discovery. The next step, now that we see the Pacifica minivans fitted with the Waymo tech, is to begin testing these models on the public roads, which the company will do in California and Arizona later this month, giving us the next phase of what this company will become as more discoveries are made.

Google has logged more autonomous miles than any other company which means Waymo is looking to continue this progression of miles as they find new ways to make their minivans behave in as similar a fashion as human drivers normally would, but in the safest manner possible. Not only has Waymo worked to continue what was started under the Google name, but they have found ways to bring the cost of the autonomous system to a much lower dollar amount than many others. In some cases a single autonomous system with rooftop lidar could cost as much as $75,000.

While Waymo hasn’t stated how much their new system actually costs, they have created a system that is able to see an item as small as a football helmet from up to 200 yards away. This ability will allow these vans to have more information than any other to make sure these minivans are the best performing autonomous vehicles ever tested on the road. If this technology works the way it’s supposed to and all information gathered is being used in order to have the right system to bring to the public in the future for the advancement of autonomous driving.

The Waymo minivans are proof that the best way for this type of driving to come to life and be used is to have a tech company partner with an automaker, which is exactly what we have. If the systems are affordable and advanced enough to allow safe driving along the roads we currently have, this may be the perfect partnership for the future of autonomous vehicles. As these minivans hit the road you can expect we’ll continue to discuss exactly what they are and how they’re performing in order to see what will make the most sense for the future of the automotive world.

01.23.17 - Waymo Chrysler Pacifica

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