The vehicles, built by Fiat Chrysler in Canada, will eventually make their way to the cities where Waymo is now testing driverless tech. "We are not giving a specific number, it's dependent upon Waymo's business needs", the spokesperson told The Drive.
"In order to move quickly and efficiently in autonomy, it is essential to partner with like-minded technology leaders", said the automaker's CEO Sergio Marchionne in a statement.
He added that their partnership with Waymo continues to grow and strengthens, with the agreement serving as the latest proof of their commitment to this type of technology. That was a historic moment: Under the definitions set by the Society of Automotive Engineers, those Waymo vans were the first "Level 4" self-driving vehicles.
Waymo did not explain what "thousands" could possibly mean.
"It's great news for the plant in Windsor", said spokesperson Dianna Gutierrez. "FCA delivered 100 in the second half of 2016 and then an additional 500 in 2017", said Gutierrez, who wouldn't say specifically how many minivans will be needed.
A series of recent studies, including one by AAA and another by Reuter's-Ipsos, found that the majority of Americans still say they wouldn't feel safe inside a vehicle without a driver - even though proponents of such technology contend that self-driving vehicles will eventually be able to eliminate highway crashes, injuries and fatalities. Waymo plans to begin offering its autonomous ride-hailing service to the public this year in the Phoenix area. We're determined to improve transportation for people around the world, building on software and sensor technology developed in Google's labs since 2009.
Among other cities the service is being tested in include San Francisco, California, Detroit, Michigan and Kirkland, Washington. However, the current suggested retail price for a 2018 Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivan might offer a good idea in terms of the price: the latest model costs $43,695.
Waymo said that it will begin offering of its autonomous ride-hailing service to members of its Early Rider program in its self-driving minivans in the months ahead. (The Pacifica can hold up to 8 passengers.) And FCA gets to look good standing next to one of the world's biggest tech giants with some of the best self-driving technology around. Waymo did not immediately return a request for comment.