Google ‘s self-driving car startup called Waymo will send their self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans on roads at the end of January, this year. More precisely, in Mountain View, California and in Phoenix, Arizona. This announcement was made by the company at the North American International Auto Show, yesterday.
A look at the Chrysler Pacifica minivans
Over the last few years, Google has sent some other self-driving Lexus SUVs on the same roads. It seems like they loved them so much that they decided to deploy the Pacificas there too. Moreover, at the same auto show, Google also offered a detailed look at the self-driving minivans. Their development was kept a secret since May 2016, when Google announced their partnership with Fiat Chrysler. However, there is a very important thing that Waymo wanted people to know about the minivans. For the first time, all the technology needed for them to be entirely self-driving is produced by Waymo. From camera to different sensors, the company gave up on trying to buy parts from other dealers.
This means that the company is doing extremely well in terms of costs. Waymo’s CEO John Krafcik even explained how producing their own sensors cut the costs with 90 per cent. Which is absolutely huge. For example, a sensor which is sold with $75 000, costs only $7 500 for Waymo to produce. This might be the key for the success of the company.
Autonomous ride-sharing in the works
Moreover, according to some rumors, Waymo and Chrysler are planning to launch an autonomous ride-sharing service which will compete with those of Uber or Lyft. Keep in mind that Waze, the mapping service, also belongs to Google. So, things might work out great for them if this rumor is true. And Waymo’s CEO indeed hinted at such a service which might be in the works.
Back in December, when Google acquired Waymo, everyone thought that the company had given up on trying to build their own self-driving vehicles. Even Google hinted at this as being a possibility. Instead, they wanted to focus on building specific hardware needed for self-driving cars. Now, people are wondering, are they going to finally have their own autonomous vehicles? It is uncertain for the moment, but maybe in the future, if their minivans business proves to be successful.
It is no longer something sci-fi for engineers to build entirely self-driving vehicles. This is not the problem. There are many programs for this (some from Apple, some Uber, at least according to rumors), auto makers and even component suppliers. The problem is to make a sensor technology which is both affordable and allows these autonomous car dreams to become fact. Technology is expensive. For example, an “eye” on top of the car, a Lidar, which is able to completely scan the entire environment surrounding the car in search for obstacles of any kind. All in all, we will see how the tests will work and what result will they provide for Google ’s Waymo and their very nice and different looking Chrysler Pacifica minivans.
Image source: here