Self-driving Company Waymo to Buy Thousands of High-end, Sporty Jaguar EVs for Taxi Service
Let’s hope future robo-taxi passengers appreciate a sport-tuned suspension and crisp driving dynamics, because there’s a slim chance they’ll notice it when shuttling around in a driverless Jaguar.
On Tuesday, Waymo, autonomous car unit of Google, announced its intent to purchase up to 20,000 Jaguar I-Pace electric crossovers for its future fleet of AV EVs. Fitted with an array of self-driving hardware and software, Waymo says the cars will hit the road in 2020. Testing begins this year, which has us wondering what kind of wait a regular I-Pace customer faces.
News of this bulk buy comes two months after Waymo’s decision to purchase “thousands” of hybrid Chrysler Pacifica minivans for its autonomous ride-hailing fleet. Fiat Chrysler and Waymo entered into an agreement long ago (in AV terms), with testing now ongoing on public roads in numerous cities. Phoenix, Arizona is the site of the company’s Early Rider test program, in which the public can summon and ride in a driverless Pacifica.
Later this year, Phoenix will serve as the launch site for the company’s commercial ride-hailing service, featuring completely driver-free cab rides for paying customers. Phoenix, of course, is a market that’s very unlikely to see snow or rain obscure road boundaries, painted markers, street signs, and the like.
So far, Waymo hasn’t seen a tragedy like that experienced by Uber last week, and, ulike Uber, the company has voluntarily submitted information to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to document its progress.
The deal between Waymo and Jaguar, which carries an undisclosed price (it’s estimated at $1 billion or more — the I-Pace’s profit margin is unknown and Jag won’t want to take a hit), will see the two companies collaborate on the vehicle’s production at the factory level. Self-driving I-Pace models will roll out of the assembly plant with everything needed to enter driverless taxi duty, rather than seeing them shipped to Waymo for outfitting. The two companies claim up to 20,000 of the specialized I-Paces will be built in the first two years of production.
The Jaguar I-Pace, which starts at $69,500 (USD), boasts approximately 240 miles of range from its 90 kWh battery pack. Two electric motors positioned front and rear combine for an output of 394 horsepower and 512 lb-ft of torque — more than enough motivation for sedate, follow-the-rules taxi service. It seem like overkill, given the car’s intended use, but Waymo has global domination in mind here. Jaguar not only has the brand recognition, but also the cash, suppliers, and facility to churn out I-Paces at a reliable clip.
Orders for retail customers began earlier this month, and the first I-Paces should enter driveways by the middle of this year.
[Images: Waymo, Jaguar Land Rover]
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- FreedMike Kudos to Chris for making an uninteresting car interesting to read about.
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