Home » US: This is how Waymo and Chrysler seek to compete with Uber and Lyft
US: This is how Waymo and Chrysler seek to compete with Uber and Lyft
In what represents a remarkable expansion of its fleet of autonomous vehicles, Waymo will receive thousands of Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans. The company already has 600 of the minivans, but it is increasing the number of vehicles before the launch of an autonomous shared-travel service. Deliveries will begin later this year, according to a Chrysler press release.
Waymo plans to launch its shared-travel service - in the style of Uber or Lyft - later this year in Phoenix, and then expand to other cities in the United States. Google's previous stand-alone auto project already offers trips to members of the public to a limited extent in Arizona, and has tested cars without a human driver behind the wheel in that state.
Before it separated from Google, Waymo used a variety of modified hybrids from Toyota and Lexus, and then switched to custom "Firefly" electric cars. But Waymo removed the last of the electric cars last year, opting to standardize its fleet around the Pacifica, receiving its first 100 vehicles in 2016 and 500 more in 2017.
All Waymo vehicles are of the Pacifica Hybrid model. Despite the confusing name, these minivans are actually plug-in hybrids, with 33 miles of all-electric range and the ability to charge their battery packs from an external power source. The Pacifica Hybrid can provide more electrical power than a standard vehicle, which is perfect for powering computers, sensors and other autonomous driving hardware. That was probably a factor in the choice of Waymo, although CEO John Krafcik also cited the "versatile interior" and the "comfortable driving experience" as part of his decision.
Chrysler and Waymo declined to say exactly how many minivans will be included in this latest order. It is worth noting that Waymo's rival, Uber, has placed an order for 24,000 Volvo XC90 SUVs to expand its own autonomous ridesharing service. For its part, General Motors plans to launch a similar service in 2019, and as we have informed you, is already building autonomous Chevrolet Bolt EV electric cars in the same assembly line as the standard Bolt EV.
Collaborative projects, such as the one between Waymo and Chrysler, will likely become the model for technology companies that develop autonomous vehicles. Car manufacturing is a costly and complicated enterprise, in which Waymo, Uber and other technology companies have no experience, and therefore, it makes sense to simply buy cars from an existing manufacturer.
However, with automakers developing their own autonomous driving technology, that strategy could also leave Waymo and other similar companies vulnerable in the future. It only remains to speculate what would happen if autonomous car manufacturers decide to become directly involved in the transport industry, with the advantage of being themselves who manufacture their own vehicles.
The above article was written and published in Spanish and has been translated into English. Click here to read the original article.