Automotive

Google to put self-driving car tech in Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan

Google to put self-driving car...
The Chrysler Pacifica will be used as a base for Google's self-driving car technology
The Chrysler Pacifica will be used as a base for Google's self-driving car technology
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Google's self-driving cars make the self-parking tech in the Pacifica look old-hat
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Google's self-driving cars make the self-parking tech in the Pacifica look old-hat
The Pacifica will be built by Chrysler and customised by Google
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The Pacifica will be built by Chrysler and customised by Google
The Pacifica launched at this year's Detroit Auto Show
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The Pacifica launched at this year's Detroit Auto Show
The Hybrid Pacifica will form a base for Google's next generation of self-driving prototypes
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The Hybrid Pacifica will form a base for Google's next generation of self-driving prototypes
The Pacifica at launch in Detroit
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The Pacifica at launch in Detroit
The Chrysler Pacifica will be used as a base for Google's self-driving car technology
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The Chrysler Pacifica will be used as a base for Google's self-driving car technology
The steering wheel is an unnecessary touch if Google's self-driving project gets off the ground
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The steering wheel is an unnecessary touch if Google's self-driving project gets off the ground

After a long gestation period in innocuous bubbles, Google has decided it's time to expand its self-driving project and integrate sensors and software into passenger cars. As it turns out, those cars will be hybrid Chrysler Pacificas specially built to house the hardware required for safe autonomous driving.

We've been covering Google's self-driving car project since it kicked off in 2009, but this is the first time the tech giant has directly worked with a carmaker. With this collaborative spirit in mind, the two companies will base a part of their engineering team at a design, testing and manufacturing facility in Michigan.

The design and engineering process is designed to play on each company's strengths, so Chrysler will manufacture the cars alone, before Google integrates the array of sensors and computers required to safely navigate the urban jungle without a driver.

The Pacifica at launch in Detroit
The Pacifica at launch in Detroit

"The opportunity to work closely with FCA engineers will accelerate ourefforts to develop a fully self-driving car that will make our roads safer and bring everydaydestinations within reach for those who cannot drive," said John Krafcik, CEO of Google's Self-Driving Car Project.

"FCA has a nimble and experienced engineering team and the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan iswell-suited for Google's self-driving technology."

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CFO, Sergio Marchionne, agreed, saying the project will help to drive industry-wide improvement in autonomous technologies.

"Working with Google provides an opportunity for FCA to partner with one of the world's leadingtechnology companies to accelerate the pace of innovation in the automotive industry," he said. "The experience both companies gain will befundamental to delivering automotive technology solutions that ultimately have far-reachingconsumer benefits."

According to Google, 94 percent of the 33,000 deaths that occur on US roads every year are caused by human error – a statistic that autonomous cars have the potential to significantly improve.

Source: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

6 comments
Mel Tisdale
"Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan is well-suited for Google's self-driving technology" What do we do with all the models for which the technology is not suited? For instance, a top of the range Bentley is going to look pretty silly with one of those rotating devices on its roof, especially when one considers that cars are a fashion item. I would be more impressed if Google had set up partnerships with sat-nav manufacturers to get the mapping right and work to integrate autonomous vehicles with it. And what about liaison with highway authorities, not just on the mapping to ensure it is always current, but to also agree on a standard so that road signs and traffic signals can 'talk' to these vehicles so that they are always obeyed. Just wait until they come to narrow mountain roads with steep drops defining one edge of the road. Mind you riding on such occasions in one of these vehicles would make an excellent cure for constipation. If the sensors detect nothing, will that mean that the car knows these steep drops are real or will it think that the sensor has failed? The answer, if wrong, could prove fatal in some circumstances. I have no problem with the data that says that overall the roads would be safer overall with this technology. The problem is that there are inevitably going to be occasions when these vehicles will prove to be more dangerous, a fact that will make them very unpopular. For them to work they have to be bought and for them to be bought they have to be sold and they will be about as sellable as pilotless airliners - the autonomous technology for which is all ready and waiting to be fitted.
DavidB
If visibility out the rear and side-rear windows is as bad as the Pacifica I rented a few years ago, you'll absolutely NEED self-driving capability. I wouldn't be caught dead in another Pacifica...well, unless I didn't notice someone who was about to rear-end me.
Bob Flint
The van has lots of room for all the equipment and computer power required, but the unnecessary steering wheel? Where would the air bag go? Might as well remove the gauges as the occupants aren't watching anyways.... The bigger the vehicle the more passengers it can potentially kill, both inside and outside when the sensors will fail, nothing is 100% safe, except not being in that situation in the first place.
MK23666
I'm sure there will be no rotating contraption on the roof of the mini van. The Tesla self driving vehicles do it with cameras and sensors.
SSD
I hope people will be be happy when their lives are under the control of semiconductors. This is too early and not well thought out. Electronics and engineering have not reached the required level - give it another 20+ years. Look how long it took for aviation, with much simpler and coordinated traffic control and there are still no pilot-less planes. These manufacturers can reduce car accident deaths by increasing the assistance such as advanced braking and HUD viewing as well as determining the level of intoxicants and eliminating texting during driving etc. There are plenty of incremental safety things that can be added once thoroughly tested. Eventually they can add these together for autonomous cars. By then, hopefully commuting will be a thing of the past as robots do the jobs of many. Here is the perfect example - we can't get the basics in safety right but people are hyped ready to jump into a 2 ton lump of metal under the control of electro-mechanical systems: http://www.nbcnews.com/business/autos/takata-airbag-recall-largest-u-s-history-just-got-even-n568106 And that is just one of very many examples.
MarcStizzy
Get ready, Taxi drivers, your job will be obsolete within no more than 10 years.