The Industry

Google’s Self-Driving Car Project to Buy 62,000 Minivans for a Ride-Hailing Service

Waymo may also lease its technology so that consumers can personally own a self-driving car.
Waymo may also lease its technology so that consumers can personally own a self-driving car. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Google’s autonomous vehicle spinoff Waymo announced on Thursday that it is planning to buy up to 62,000 minivans from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles for a ride-hailing service, which will launch later in the year in Phoenix. Waymo had previously struck a deal to buy 20,000 compact cars from Jaguar Land Rover in March.

Rather than manufacturing cars itself, Waymo plans to retrofit these fleets with cameras, sensors, and other self-driving technology. Beyond ride hailing and leasing, Waymo indicated that it also plans to earn revenue from deliveries and mass transit.

“We’re excited to deepen our relationship with F.C.A. that will support the launch of our driverless service, and explore future products that support Waymo’s mission,” CEO John Krafcik told the New York Times.

The company also announced that it is discussing the possibility of leasing its technology to Fiat Chrysler so that the automaker can also sell these to consumers, the first solid indication that Waymo is willing to let people personally own an autonomous vehicle. Waymo began working with Fiat Chrysler in 2016 and currently has around 600 minivans, with which it has been running tests in Arizona, California, Texas, Washington, Michigan, and Georgia.

This news from Waymo comes after Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told Recode just this week that the two companies have been discussing the possibility of collaborating on autonomous vehicles. “They’re an incredible technology provider, they’re serious about autonomous,” he said of Waymo. “To the extent that that technology could show up on the [Uber] network, I think [it] could be a good thing. It’s up to them whether they want to do it or not.”

It’s unclear how Thursday’s news will impact that potential partnership, since it seems like Waymo could soon be directly competing with Uber. Khosrowshahi told CNBC on Wednesday that Uber is on track to hold an initial public offering in the second half of 2019; another well-funded company focused on autonomous vehicles probably isn’t who the company wants entering the market before then.