Waymo, Jaguar Team Up to Offer Luxury, Self-Driving SUV

Waymo and Jaguar Land Rover are teaming up to offer a luxury, self-driving SUV based on the iconic car company’s I-PACE design, which will start testing later this year in anticipation of creating a ride-sharing fleet of about 20,000 vehicles.

John Krafcik, Waymo CEO, unveiled the jointly developed self-driving I-PACE at an event in New York City on March 27.

This new self-driving design is based on Jaguar’s all electric I-PACE SUV. To that vehicle, Waymo, which is the self-driving division of Google’s parent company Alphabet, will add its own self-driving features, which include artificial intelligence and an array of sensors, such as the company’s Lidar technology.

The result, Krafcik said, is a luxury, self-driving SUV that will complement the company’s already active fleet of autonomous vehicles, including several hundred Chrysler Pacific minivans, which form part of its ride-sharing service.

Waymo has promised its autonomous, ride-hailing offering will be available later this year and ahead of competing services.

“We surveyed the world and we found that the I-PACE is the next, best vehicle for Waymo,” Krafcik said during Tuesday’s presentation. “Its size makes it perfect for city driving. Its modern electrical architecture is well suited for our technology. The all new platform was designed with the world’s latest and toughest safety standards in mind. And finally, its big, fast-charge battery means it can drive all day, which is perfect for our self-driving service.”

Waymo plans to add the first of these self-driving I-PACE SUVs to its ride-sharing fleet later this year, and within the next two years there will be about 20,000 of these vehicles on the road. These SUVs will account for about 1 million driving miles each day, Krafcik said.

Throughout his presentation, Krafcik emphasized safety and Waymo’s rigorous testing of its self-driving and autonomous vehicles, whether it’s on public roads (such as in Arizona), on closed-in testing facilities or within a virtual world the company developed.

Left unsaid is that Krafcik emphasized safety at a time when the entire autonomous vehicle industry faces increased scrutiny following a fatal accident involving a self-driving Uber vehicle and a pedestrian in Tempe, Ariz., earlier this month.

Since that time, Uber has put a hold on all its self-driving tests in North America, although Waymo has continued with its own.

To hammer home the twin points of luxury and safety, Ralf Speth, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover, told the audience Tuesday that self-driving I-PACE is an industry game changer.

“Electrification is the technological prerequisite for autonomous driving in the future,” Speth said. “We are leading and we have a clear vision of smart mobility, new levels of high quality that is safe, entertaining, enjoyable and part of exciting journeys, giving our customer precious, valuable time back.”

— Scott Ferguson is managing editor for the Connected Car, as well as the editor of Security Now. Follow him on Twitter @sferguson_LR.

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