As deals go, the Google agreement with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) to purchase 100 of the automakers 2017 Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid minivans isn’t a huge one. But it is smart for a number of reasons we find compelling.
Driverless Vehicles Need to Carry More Passengers
Looking at the hoped-for wave of consumers, businesses and public entities buying driverless vehicles means there has to be development of various kinds of passenger-carrying cars, minivans, SUVs, vans and such. Granted, some driverless vehicles will likely accommodate just one or two passengers (or up to four or five), and that’s fine. But to really encourage and jumpstart widespread use, self-driving vehicles will need to carry more passengers than the family sedan.
That’s one big reason we applaud the decision by Google to opt for 100 of the all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica minivan. As reported in Forbes, the deal likely has provisions to expand the collaboration further. That’s important for Google to work out manufacturing and distribution of driverless vehicles.
It doesn’t hurt Fiat Chrysler, either.
As The Atlantic noted in online coverage, Google’s choice to go for the Pacifica minivan instead of its current fleet of tiny testers, or the series of driverless Audi, Toyota and Lexus SUVs, is a “brilliant move.”
Driverless vehicles that seats up to eight are likely to be snapped up by businesses and institutions as mini-fleets for ride-sharing purposes, the publication opines.
The Pacifica Minivan is Eco-Friendly
The small-to-begin-with fleet of 100 2017 Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid minivans is in line with Google’s intent to be eco-friendly. The Pacifica hybrid is expected to get up to 80 MPGe and 30 miles in electric-only range, with a 530-mile gas and electric driving range. The Pacifica is also the first-ever hybrid in its class.
According to the Forbes report, instead of Google having to retrofit the vehicles themselves – as they’ve done with previous test driverless vehicles – engineers from the Silicon Valley tech giant and Motor City’s FCA will engage in collaboration “to accelerate the design, testing and manufacturing” of the Pacifica minivans.
With the expectation that the round of testing with the eco-friendly driverless Pacifica minivan goes smoothly, look for more extensive road testing with the FCA minivan in 2017. A good set of results would lend credence to further collaboration – and, possibly, a larger fleet buy.
This is the First Major Direct Collaboration With an Automaker
Within The Atlantic piece is the comment that Google’s purchase deal with FCA is the first major direct collaboration with an automaker. And the fact that Google chose a minivan for this effort is telling.
It is all about building the public trust and, after all, the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica is an excellent example of a safe, practical, versatile and reliable vehicle. Think soccer moms, ferrying the kids back and forth, transporting the family on day- or week-end excursions, employees heading out for a quick lunch or break, schools shuttling students to outings and so on.
Long a staple of family transportation, what’s more likely to engage consumers than a safe, practical, versatile, reliable driverless minivan – that happens to be a plug-in hybrid?
And the fact that Google struck the deal with Chrysler – the automaker that invented the minivan in the 1980s (with the firstin 1984) – means the tech giant is flexing its marketability chops. Chrysler knows how to do minivans. Years of experience and millions of satisfied buyers attest to that.
Other Enticing Minivan Features
Beyond the safety aspect, which is a huge consideration, and the eco-friendliness of the vehicle, another compelling point, the modified Chrysler Pacifica hybrid boasts a number of other features that consumers should find enticing, as Gizmodo reports and Consumer Reports notes in a review.
- There’s plenty of cargo space, and a deep well behind the third row easily fits plenty of luggage – even with all seats occupied. Second- and third-row seats fold into the floor for maximum cargo space.
- It’s easy to get into and out of the Pacifica, thanks to the innovative Stow ‘n Go second-row seating – a Chrysler exclusive. Add to that the ease of third-row access by tugging one seat-top lever and climbing into the back row when the seat tilts forward and it’s all systems go.
- They’re equipped with standard or available consumer must-have technology such as touchscreens for navigation, infotainment and entertainment. In the front, there’s the optional 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen infotainment system. There’s also the optional easy-to-use Uconnect two touchscreens for passengers seated behind the front row.
- The Chrysler Pacifica minivan has copious interior space.
- An optional sunroof puts an open-sky feel over all three rows.
- Numerous storage bins and cubbies throughout make bringing stuff along no problem. There’s even room in underfloor bins when the Pacifica’s seats are raised.
- Access for blind or wheelchair-bound passengers is easier with a driverless minivan such as the Pacifica.
- The quietness of the hybrid driverless Pacifica make it perfect for pick-ups and drop-offs any time of the day or night. Chrysler put active noise cancellation on all Pacifica trims.
- More than 100 standard and available advanced technology safety and security features in the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica include 360-degree Surround View with Rear Cross-Path Detection, Lane Sense Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist and more.
One final reason we like the Google deal with Fiat Chrysler is that it’s with a Detroit automaker. Granted, things have changed from the Big Three car companies (General Motors, Ford and Chrysler), but it’s good to see that Google is paying attention to innovation that comes out of Detroit. Just saying – and that’s not anything against the increasingly sophisticated and relentlessly improving makes and models from other automakers.