Waymo, the self-driving unit of Google parent Alphabet, will add 20,000 electric SUVs made by luxury car brand Jaguar Land Rover to its ride-hailing service over the next few years.
The Waymo-Jaguar partnership will introduce a new vehicle into the Alphabet unit's fleet of self-driving vehicles, at a time when the technology is once again under massive scrutiny from both regulators and the public.
Waymo Teams Up With Jaguar For Self-Driving Electric SUVs
Waymo announced its partnership with Jaguar through an official Medium post, where it claimed that it was joining forces with the automobile manufacturer to create "the world's first premium electric fully self-driving vehicle."
The new vehicle is the Jaguar I-Pace electric SUV, which was first unveiled as a concept in November 2016. The production of the electric SUVs equipped with Waymo's self-driving technology will begin in 2020, with the companies expecting to manufacture and release to the streets 20,000 units by 2022.
The electric SUVs, however, will not only be used for testing Waymo's self-driving technology, but will go straight into offering customers rides through Waymo's ride-hailing service. Waymo operates a small-scale ride-hailing service in and around Phoenix with its self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans, and the Jaguar I-Pace electric SUV will soon join that fleet.
The Jaguar I-Pace electric SUV will be the sixth model in Waymo's fleet of self-driving vehicles. It all started with a dome-shaped car, followed by an SUV, a firefly prototype, the Chrysler Pacifica minivans, and a semi-truck, which recently started testing in Atlanta.
At the press event where the Waymo-powered Jaguar I-Pace was revealed, Waymo CEO John Krafcik revealed that the electric SUV has a battery capable of driving all day. Meanwhile, the partnership also shows Waymo's interest in expanding to Europe, as Jaguar is based in the United Kingdom.
Self-Driving Tech In The Spotlight
The announcement of the Waymo-Jaguar partnership comes at a time when self-driving technology is once again under the spotlight, but for the wrong reason.
Earlier this month, a self-driving Uber vehicle, with a backup driver behind its wheel, struck and killed a 49-year-old woman in Arizona. The accident raised questions on the safety and reliability of self-driving vehicles, especially amid efforts to use the technology for ride-hailing services.
Waymo also recently ended a long-running legal dispute with Uber, when the latter agreed to pay $245 million last month as settlement. With the legal issues taken care of, Waymo is apparently all focused on its operations. The question, however, is whether Waymo will be able to escape the negativity now surrounding self-driving technology.