Waymo’s fleet of self-driving minivans just grew by ‘thousands’

The self-driving car movement continues to accelerate, both in the speed of innovation taking place and the number of autonomous vehicles on the road. Take, for instance, Waymo, the self-driving car arm of Google's parent company, Alphabet. 

Today, Waymo announced that it's purchased 'thousands' of Pacifica Hybrid minivans from long-standing partner Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) to add to its self-driving car fleet.

FCA said the large minivan order will "support the launch of the world's first driverless ride-hailing service", which is expected to come to cities across the US. As of right now, Waymo's service is slated to begin picking up passengers in Phoenix, Arizona sometime this year.

FCA previously supplied Waymo with 600 Pacifica Hybrid minivans, all rigged out for self-driving. While the exact number of new minivans wasn't disclosed in today's announcement, 'thousands' is certainly no small figure. 

Going and going

Waymo is establishing itself at the forefront of the self-driving car movement, particularly when it comes to autonomous vehicles that offers rides to passengers.

The company began testing its self-driving minivans on public roads – with no one at the wheel – late last year. According to FCA, Waymo has tested its self-driving technology in 25 cities in the US. 

The countdown for Waymo's autonomous ride-hailing service may be on, but other companies are stepping up their self-driving game, too. It was recently discovered that Apple has grown its fleet of self-driving Lexus vehicles from 3 to 27. Meanwhile, Uber wants its self-driving cars picking up passengers in the next 18 months.

And earlier today we reported on Nuro, a company founded by two former Waymo engineers that has developed a self-driving delivery van. Rather than ferry around people, the vehicle will deliver goods ranging from online food orders to dry cleaning. 

That's not to mention the countless automobile companies with plans to have their own self-driving cars on the road in the coming years. 

Still, despite progress in self-driving across the industry, today's news only seems to lengthen Waymo's lead. We'll just have to see if its ride-hailing service meets its timeline. So far, there's no indication it won't.