When the Dodge Caravan made its entrance in 1983, minivans automatically became the best choice for millions of parents.
If you didn’t care how the rest of the world looked at you and also were excited about the practicality of fitting half a soccer team in the back seats, this car was for you.
After becoming so popular, Google decided it can take the minivan to the next level. Last week, the tech giant announced it would add 100 custom-built Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans to its range of experimental self-driving vehicles.
For its first prototype, Google went with the practical Prius, designing its own car with two seats and a friendly face. The pod became iconic for the search giant, its recognizable face holding the population’s hopes for the self-driving revolution.
While Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo have been working on automated driving features in high-end cars, Google has remained focused on keeping its cars practical for as many people as possible.
The first prototypes had a pretty narrow vision of utility; while they were perfect for childless Uber fans in San Francisco, what about everybody else who wanted to lay back during long driving hours?
By involving the design of the Pacifica in its latest experiments, Google is signaling that the new technology it develops will be useful for the entire family.
As Google has also focused on helping older people and people with physical disabilities move around without assistance, Chrysler’s minivans seem a perfect fit as they are commonly used for wheelchair retrofits.
When it was released in ’83, the new Dodge Caravan was advertised as an “American revolution,” because it cared more about the number of passengers and cargo room than the needs of a driver.
It was indeed a revolutionary idea back then, but with Google’s new input, it could be even more so now. Where self-driving cars are concerned, a functional interior is vital, because vehicles will become more like living rooms, with entertainment screens and comfortable seats.
But Apple might be stepping on Google’s toes with similar ideas. According to a MacWorld blog post in 2015, Apple’s secret automotive project had imported a 1957 Fiat Multipla 600, a proto-minivan meant to maximize interior space.
Image Source: Autodata