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Google sister company makes 62.000 minivans to robot taxis

Google sister company waymo will expand its fleet of self-driving cars with up to 62.000 more minivans to be built by chrysler.

At the announcement late thursday, however, it remained open over what period these vehicles will be delivered. It only said that the first cars from the order should arrive by the end of the year.

The deal could be worth more than two billion dollars in total, the wall street journal reported, citing informed persons. The converted chrysler pacifica minivans already form the core of waymo’s fleet of several hundred vehicles.

The company also recently ordered 20.000 cars of jaguar’s I-pace electric car, but does not yet have any self-driving cars of the type in operation. Waymo is in the process of launching a robotic cab service for residents of a suburb of phoenix, arizona, and is also working on autonomous driving trucks.

The second part of the announcement is at least as important: negotiations are to be held with fiat chrysler on the use of waymo’s robotic car technology in cars from the italian-american manufacturer. This could put the google sister company ahead of its first supplier deal with the auto industry. The industry has so far shown little willingness to commit to technology from the internet giant, even though it is considered particularly advanced.

Google had startled the auto industry with the presentation of its robot car program and accelerated the development of self-driving cars. With the founding of the umbrella company alphabet, the project was spun off into the new company waymo. In the meantime, google had also sent an electric two-seater of its own development onto the road, but at waymo it was then decided to convert cars from other manufacturers again.

The announcement by google and fiat chrysler is further evidence that the pace is picking up in the race to develop self-driving cars. Just hours earlier, u.S. Auto giant general motors announced a billion-dollar cash injection for its robotic car subsidiary cruise. 2.35 billion dollars is to come from the "vision" investment fund of the japanese technology group softbank. And GM itself wants to invest another 1.1 billion dollars in cruise. Cruise to launch its first commercial robot cab service by the end of next year.

Self-driving cars are expected to dramatically change traffic in cities. One consequence of this could be that the lucrative part of the business in the car industry will be the operation of driving services and no longer the sale of vehicles. That’s why, in addition to ride-hailing companies like uber, automakers are working on their own robotic cab services.

The industry is certain that the future belongs to self-driving cars. The developers promise above all more safety and drastically fewer traffic fatalities, because most of the mistakes were made by humans. However, the first fatal accident with a robot car in march also showed that it is a tough technological task, for which not all suppliers are ready.

A self-driving uber car killed a female pedestrian crossing the street while pushing a bicycle next to her during a nighttime test run in arizona. U.S. NTSB accident investigators say the software first mistook the woman for an unknown object, then for a vehicle, then for a bicycle, and had trouble predicting her direction of travel. In addition, the automatic braking function of the car was deactivated – and there was also no impact warning for the human at the wheel.

Uber plans to stick to developing its own robotic car technology even after the accident. Company chief dara khosrowshahi said this week the ride-hailing service provider also wants to bring cars from waymo onto its platform.

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