Last year, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) announced that they would expand their partnership with an agreement to add up to 62,000 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans to Waymo’s self-driving fleet. At the time, Waymo had around 600 of the self-driving Pacifica Hybrid minivans in its fleet which was the biggest fleet of self-driving vehicles. The vehicles had racked up millions of miles of on-road testing since Waymo launched their fleet.
During the Capital Markets Day event, FCA stated that it was in talks with Waymo on developing a Waymo-equipped fully self-driving vehicle for its retail customers. Since then, FCA and Waymo engineers have continued working together to support Waymo’s expansion and to evolve the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan with self-driving technology.
This past week, our spy photographers caught one of FCA’s self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid prototypes testing in a private parking lot near its Auburn Hills, Michigan Headquarters. What is unique about this self-driving Pacifica Hybrid is features a much different setup than the Waymo-equipped self-driving Pacificas. The autonomous equipment on top of the vehicle appears to be on an adjust rack mechanism allowing the equipment to be stowed lower on the roof, great for those who garage their vehicles. The Waymo setup is encased in a plastic housing, which protects the equipment and offers better aerodynamics but adds to the height of the Pacifica.
We also clearly see that a forward-facing camera for scanning the road surface is located on the passenger side of the windshield. It looks like this version of the self-driving Pacifica Hybrid conceals a lot of its technology within the structure of the vehicle, where the Waymo version mounts much of its systems on the exterior of the vehicle.
Absent are the Waymo front fender addition and rear roof addition housing storing LiDAR sensors. We do know that the former FCA-owned Magneti Marelli has worked on hiding such systems in various parts of the vehicle’s exterior, giving a cleaner look to the overall vehicle without disturbing the functionality to operate the systems needed for self-driving autonomy.
The Magneti Marelli Smart Corner Chrysler Pacifica Concept (shown in the video above) shows how the equipment can hinder the styling, aerodynamics, and allows more protection for the necessary equipment being hidden in the body of the vehicle. This process was also used on the autonomous 2017 Chrysler Portal Concept as well.
According to our sources, FCA is looking to have a Level 4 self-driving autonomous vehicle on the market for retail customers around the 2022 model year. Word is that FCA will offer the technology on not just the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, but other a couple other vehicles after the self-driving Pacifica makes its way to showrooms. One of the vehicles, we are told is a smaller minivan-based vehicle like a production version of the Chrysler Portal (yet to be named) that will replace the aging Dodge Grand Caravan.
Self-Driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Prototype Image Gallery: