Google’s driverless car unit Waymo has announced a deal to acquire cars from Jaguar Land Rover numbering 20,000 to add to its autonomous fleet in the course of the coming two years. Specifically this will be the Jaguar I-PACE, an electric sports utility vehicle. According to Waymo once the Jaguar SUVs are fitted with driverless car technology they will be able to handle a combined one million rides on a daily basis.
The deal will see Jaguar Land Rover begin the delivery of the cars in 2020. However the I-Pace will be available in showrooms starting later this year but it won’t have the self-driving technology.
Waymo’s fleet of robo-taxis already has Chrysler Pacifica minivans and the Jaguar SUVs will provide diversity as well as attract those who are looking for more luxurious rides. Jaguar Land Rover will also benefit from the fact that its electric SUVs will have a ready market in the United States at a time when sales for electric cars are still relatively low. The I-Pace boasts a range of 240 miles.
“The partnership with Waymo puts an exclamation point on Jaguar’s comeback. Just a few years ago the company was struggling, but now they’ve made it clear that they’re thinking far beyond their sports-car heritage and are reaping the rewards,” an auto analyst at Edmunds, Jessica Caldwell, said.
According to the chief executive officer of Waymo, John Krafcik, the robo-taxi service of the company will begin with the existing fleet in Phoenix in an area measuring about 100 square miles. Though there are plans of expansion Krafcik did not reveal which other cities Waymo would be targeting.
Waymo’s plans pose a threat to ride-hailing services such as Lyft and Uber which are also racing to develop their own autonomous car technology. There are risks however since the technology is still at an early stage. This was recently laid bare when a Volvo car using Uber’s autonomous technology hit and killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona. Uber immediately suspended its testing of driverless cars in the state.
Despite the controversy generated after the Uber incident Waymo has however pressed ahead with its testing of the driverless car technology. Waymo has also disclosed that its technology is the only one being tested on public roads without the use of a safety driver – a human driver who is supposed to intervene in case the technology does not work as intended.