Waymo self-driving minivan to start test drives this month


AP

DETROIT — Waymo, Google’s self-driving car division, will start testing its new fleet of minivans on public roads in California and Arizona later this month.

The minivans, built in collaboration with Fiat Chrysler, are Chrysler Pacifica hybrids outfitted with Waymo’s own suite of sensors and radar. Waymo and FCA announced their partnership in May.

In a speech at the Detroit auto show Sunday, CEO John Krafcik revealed that Waymo built the sensors, radar and software for the new minivans itself.

Krafcik said the company felt the system would work better if it was developed specifically for self-driving instead of using off-the-shelf parts.

“A single integrated system means that all the different parts of a self-driving car work together seamlessly,” Krafcik said.

Waymo also was able to significantly lower the cost of the system, Krafcik said. The rooftop lidar — which uses lasers to give the car a three-dimensional picture of the world — cost US$75,000 a few years ago. Waymo has brought that cost down by 90 percent.