Waymo, the self-driving unit of Google parent Alphabet, entered into a deal with one of Detroit's Big Three automakers to dramatically expand its fleet of autonomous vehicles. According to an announcement by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles it would supply ''thousands'' of additional Chrysler Pacifica minivans to Waymo, starting end of 2018.
The specific number of vehicles that would be bought was not disclosed by the parties who also did not reveal the amount of money that was trading hands. The retail price for the 2018 Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivan starts at $39,995 and the cost of a thousand minivans would work out to $40 million, the very least of an eight-figure deal, according to commentators.
Waymo has 600 of FCA's minivans in its fleet, and some of the vehicles are used to shuttle real people around for its Early Rider programme in Arizona. The delivery of the first 100 was completed in May 2016 and an additional 500 were delivered in 2017. The minivans are plug-in hybrid variants and come with Waymo's self-driving hardware and software.
According to commentators, the partnership is non-exclusive, but the development is a sign that the alliance is working to the satisfaction of both parties.
''In order to move quickly and efficiently in autonomy, it is essential to partner with like-minded technology leaders,'' Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said in a statement. ''Our partnership with Waymo continues to grow and strengthen; this represents the latest sign of our commitment to this technology,'' USA Today reported.
''With the world's first fleet of fully self-driving vehicles on the road, we've moved from research and development to operations and deployment,'' Waymo CEO John Krafcik said. ''The Pacifica Hybrid minivans offer a versatile interior and a comfortable ride experience, and these additional vehicles will help us scale,'' the report added.