SELF-DRIVING MINIVAN: Google has teamed up with Fiat Chrysler to increase its autonomous test fleet with the addition of 100 new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans. Image: AFP / Noah Berger
San Francisco - Google parent company Alphabet on Tuesday announced that it has partnered with Fiat Chrysler in a major expansion of its fleet of self-driving vehicles.
The Google autonomous test fleet would be more than doubled with the addition of 100 new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans, with the companies aiming to have some on the road by the end of 2016.
The collaboration with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) marked the first time that the California-based Internet giant has worked directly with an automaker to build self-driving vehicles.
Self-driving Google car
The car team, in a post at Google+ social network, said: "FCA will design the minivans so it's easy for us to install our self-driving systems, including the computers that hold our self-driving software, and the sensors that enable our software to see what's on the road around the vehicle."
READ: Fiat Chrysler, Google in partnership talks
The minivan design also provides opportunity to explore the potential of large self-driving vehicles that could be used mass-transit style with features such as hands-free sliding doors for getting in or out, according to the post.
Alphabet stressed that it was not licensing its autonomous car technology, nor would it be selling the self-driving minivans.
Google began testing its autonomous driving technology in 2009, using a Toyota Prius equipped with the tech-giant's equipment. It now has some 70 vehicles, including Lexus cars, adapted by Google and its in-house designed cars unveiled in 2014.
FCA will design and engineer around 100 vehicles uniquely built for self-driving technology that Google will integrate into vehicles, according to the automaker.
The companies will position engineering teams at a facility in Michigan to accelerate the design, testing and manufacturing of the self-driving Chrysler Pacifica.
Google Self-Driving Car Project chief executive John Krafcik said: "FCA has a nimble and experienced engineering team and the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan is well-suited for Google's self-driving technology.
"The opportunity to work closely with FCA engineers will accelerate our efforts to develop a fully self-driving car that will make our roads safer and bring everyday destinations within reach for those who cannot drive."