Waymo, the self-driving car company headed up by Google parent company Alphabet, has agreed a deal with Coventry-based Jaguar Land Rover that will see the latter provide some 20,000 electric I-Pace SUVs to the former, to help create a fleet of self-driving taxis.
Waymo has said it will begin testing the first prototype I-Pace SUV kitted out with its self-driving tech on public roads at the end of this year, before becoming an official part of the self-driving ride-hailing taxi service in 2020.
Rather than retrofit its autonomous technology into a standard I-Pace, Waymo and JLR will in fact build the cars to be self-driving from scratch. Up to 20,000 self-driving I-Paces are expected to be built in the first two years, which should eventually be able to provide up to 1 million trips a day.
Waymo already has a fleet of 600 Chrysler Pacifica minivans in operation in Phoenix, Arizona, which are running on the company's Early Rider program, which lets members of the public sign up to use the service for free. Riders are selected based on the type of trip they want to take and how willing they are to use self-driving vehicles are their primary mode of transportation. The Chrysler minivans do have a Waymo driver at the wheel, but they are only there in case of an emergency, otherwise the car does all the work.
The new Jaguar I-Pace SUVs will operate alongside the Chrysler Pacifica, offering a more luxurious mode of transport, in a similar way to Uber's UberX and UberLux taxis. With Waymo conducting tests in several states in the US, CEO John Krafcik has said the company will announce its second commercial partnership later this year, and considering there is now a partnership with Jaguar Land Rover, it could well be the UK that starts seeing Waymo cars being tested on the roads.
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JLR is no stranger to the self-driving car market, as it has previously invested $25 million with US ride hailing service Lyft to help develop self-driving car technology, and has provided a fleet of Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles to assist with testing.