Google wants to make self-driving vehicles a family affair

Can Google make minivans cool again?

Chrysler Pacifica

Update: Fiat Chrysler announced the partnership. The story was updated to reflect the official announcement.

Google and Fiat Chrysler collaborating on self-driving cars is a done deal. The two companies are working together to put Google's self-driving technology in Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans this year.

The project will spawn 100 autonomous minivans. Fiat Chrysler is in charge of vehicle design and engineering, at first, while Google is responsible for the software to take advantage of all the sensors and autonomous driving hardware.

Development for the autonomous Pacifica Hybrid takes place at a southeastern Michigan facility. Engineers from Google and Fiat Chrysler will work together at the facility to speed up development of autonomous cars. However, the vehicles will be tested in California at Google's private test track before traversing among human drivers.

While minivans lack the cool-factor of the Tesla Model X's falcon doors, it's a practical car that makes sense. Chrysler offers the Pacifica with optional full-speed adaptive cruise control (ACC), automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane keep assist (LKAS), parallel and perpendicular parking assist, and a 360-degree camera.

The Pacifica's vast suite of driver assist can help make a commute more pleasant or prevent an accident in a pinch, just strap on some higher resolution cameras, LiDAR and let Google's self-driving artificial intelligence (AI) take the wheel to pick up your kids from soccer practice.

Chrysler currently sells the minivan with a 3.6-liter V6 engine, but the Pacifica Hybrid lands this fall as a plug-in electric (PHEV) family hauler. The Pacifica Hybrid can drive solely on the electric motors and battery pack for up to 30 miles, which is more than I drive in a day.

Combine the Pacifica Hybrid with Google's self-driving AI and you have a fuel efficient shuttle that can transport up to eight Google employees around campus or pickup your kids from soccer practice, autonomously.

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