More autonomous Waymo vehicles coming to Phoenix area
SAN FRANCISCO — A self-driving car service that Google spinoff Waymo plans to launch later this year will include up to 62,000 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans.
The deal announced Thursday is the latest sign of Waymo’s confidence in its self-driving car technology, which sprung from a secret Google project started nine years ago. The technology will initially be deployed in a ride-hailing service in the Phoenix area before the end of this year and then expand into other U.S. markets.
Waymo plans to pick up people in cars that won’t have a human in the driver’s seat, making it the first ride-hailing service with a fleet of fully autonomous vehicles.
The announcement is a boon to Arizona's self-driving car industry after weeks of negative headlines.
In March, an Uber self-driving car struck and killed a woman who was walking a bike across a street in Tempe. It was the first fatal encounter between an autonomous car and a pedestrian.
Police said the pedestrian, Elaine Herzberg, 49, was not in a crosswalk at the time. Earlier this month, federal investigators reported the Uber vehicle did not brake or alert the human monitor inside before the crash.
Uber has announced it will no longer test self-driving cars in Arizona.
Waymo CEO John Krafcik said in March he was saddened by the fatality, but expects that a Waymo vehicle would have avoided the accident.
MORE:A timeline of events leading up to shutdown of self-driving Uber cars
The company already had bought 600 Pacifica Hybrid minivans from Fiat Chrysler with a commitment to add “thousands” more.
Waymo and Fiat also are discussing other ways to expand their partnership, including possibly striking a deal to sell Chrysler vehicles with self-driving technology to consumers.
Chrysler is the largest vehicle supplier for Waymo’s ride-hailing service so far. Waymo agreed to buy up to 20,000 electric vehicles from Jaguar Land Rover, but none will be ready before 2020.