Self-Driving 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrids Take to Public Roads | Edmunds

Self-Driving 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrids Take to Public Roads

Starting immediately, Phoenix-area residents can sign up for unlimited free rides in self-driving 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans.

As previously reported by Edmunds, Chrysler partnered with Google last year in an agreement to install the tech giant's self-driving system in 100 Pacifica Hybrids. Since then, Google has spun off its autonomous vehicle program into a new business called Waymo, and now Chrysler has agreed to deliver an additional 500 driverless Pacifica Hybrids, with production beginning this month.

"The collaboration between FCA [Fiat Chrysler Automobiles] and Waymo has been advantageous for both companies as we continue to work together to fully understand the steps needed to bring self-driving vehicles to market," said Sergio Marchionne, chief executive officer of FCA, in a statement. "The addition of 500 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans is a further acknowledgement of the hard work put forth by both engineering teams."

This latest initiative is the start of Waymo's Early Rider program, intended to test the autonomous vehicles on public streets and solicit feedback from passengers about when, where and how they use the service. Although Google has been testing self-driving cars for a number of years, and more than 3 million miles, this is the first time members of the public will be welcomed aboard.

Waymo notes that, although its intention is to develop fully autonomous vehicles capable of operating without human intervention, during the Early Rider project one of its experienced test drivers will be behind the wheel of each minivan at all times.

"Rather than offering people one or two rides, the goal of this program is to give participants access to our fleet every day, at any time, to go anywhere within an area that's about twice the size of San Francisco," Waymo CEO John Krafcik said in a blog post. "We want as many people as possible to experience our technology, and we want to bring self-driving cars to more communities sooner."

Interested consumers in the Phoenix metropolitan area can learn more and sign up on the Waymo website. Although there is no target date for actually beginning to carry passengers, Waymo says it plans to expand the program throughout the year with the hope of enrolling hundreds of early riders.

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