Waymo announces testing of first self-driving vans

Google’s self-driving car development company Waymo ’s CEO John Krafcik has posted a blog that shares a look at the 100 newly completed Chrysler Pacifica ‘fully self-driving’ minivans that are to join Waymo’s fleet of self-driving vehicles in the early part of next year.

Google / Alphabet has agreed to work with Fiat Chrysler (FCA) on autonomous vehicles in May 2016 and the fruit of the discussions are the Pacifica minivans.

“With this great new minivan on the road in our test markets, we’ll learn how people of all ages, shapes, and group sizes experience our fully self-driving technology,” said Krafcik in his blog, adding that the vehicles are “equipped with our latest Waymo self-driving technology, including our suite of updated sensors, all-new computer and other major system updates”.

Krafcik continued: “Getting from program kickoff to production and full vehicle assembly in half a year is a testament to the strong teamwork and collaboration between FCA and Waymo engineers. We’re looking forward to having these new vehicles on public roads in 2017.”

For those in the delivery industry, self-driving minivans are something of great interest given the potential for reducing manpower costs in the final mile delivery phase. In a Utopian future, the system would be autonomous from picking to delivery, with manpower only being used to direct the fleets of vehicles at a managerial level. This would vastly cut costs in the supply chain and could reduce problems associated with ‘human nature’ whether it be a shortage of drivers due to sickness or inaccurate picking at the fulfilment centre. Waymo’s new project will be a very interesting beginning to this process.

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