Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and Google could sign a deal as soon as today to make "several dozen" self-driving minivans, Bloomberg is reporting, citing unnamed sources. The minivans could be on the road this year, the "first phase" of a broader autonomous car deal between the two companies. WSJ and AutoExtremist previously reported last week that FCA and Google were close to such a deal.
If true, the minivan deal would use Chrysler's redesigned 2017 Pacifica, which has been widely praised in the automotive media for its design and features — and the fact that it will be available as a plug-in hybrid for the first time in Chrysler's long minivan history.
The highest-capacity Google car yet
This wouldn't be the first time Google has used third-party vehicles to make a fleet of self-driving cars: the company started with Toyota Priuses, and still uses Lexus RX crossovers across its test cities. But the company has been lacking a larger shuttle type of vehicle that could ferry a bunch of people (a large family, say, or a bunch of coworkers) at once. The Pacifica, with a maximum seating of eight, would fill that gap.
It's not clear whether the Pacificas would be used in a test fleet, as Google's other vehicles have been, or in some sort of limited commercial deployment. Google is widely expected to "graduate" the self-driving car project from X into its own company soon, which would create revenue pressure. Limited ride-hail deployments, like on a college or commercial campus, could let Google deploy more quickly without having to wait for regulations to catch up — a process that is expected to take several years.
We've reached out to Google for comment.