Waymo is making huge strides in the race to develop a safe and robust self-driving service.
The Alphabet-owned company formerly known as the Google Self-Driving Car Project on Thursday announced that starting in 2018 it will order up to 62,000 additional Chrysler Pacifica Hybrids to join its self-driving fleet.
It follows Waymo's announcement in March that it will source up to 20,000 Jaguar I-Pace SUVs by 2020, and a report from a week ago claiming Apple is looking to source Volkswagen vans for a self-driving service to be used by employees.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has been supplying Pacifica Hybrids for Waymo's fleet since 2016, initially with a 100-vehicle order and 500 more added since then. Controlling the minivans is a self-driving system that's been in development at Waymo since 2009.
Beyond the supply of vehicles, FCA is also beginning discussions with Waymo about licensing the self-driving technology, including potentially for a vehicle FCA could sell to the public. No further details were given but automakers have in the past discussed the potential of selling cars with self-driving systems to end users, though such a reality is still some time away. We could however see electronic driver aids leveraging Waymo's self-driving technology much sooner.
“FCA is committed to bringing self-driving technology to our customers in a manner that is safe, efficient and realistic,” FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne said in a statement. “Strategic partnerships, such as the one we have with Waymo, will help to drive innovative technology to the forefront.”
Waymo is one of the leaders in the self-driving car space, having racked up over 6.0 million miles of real-world testing. It plans to commercialize self-driving cars as early as this year. The first service is expected to cover about 100 square miles in Phoenix, Arizona.
General Motors has even more ambitious plans. The automaker plans to put into a commercial service next year self-driving cars devoid of a steering wheel and pedals. GM on Thursday announced that its self-driving car business, called GM Cruise, has received a $2.25 billion backing from Softbank Vision Fund, considered the world's biggest tech investor.