Waymo Adds 20,000 Autonomous Jaguar I-Pace SUVs to Test Fleet
Google’s self-driving car division Waymo and Jaguar announced a new long-term strategic partnership today just ahead of the New York International Auto Show. Utilizing the new all-electric 2019 Jaguar I-Pace, Waymo will be expanding its Phoenix, Arizona, test fleet with 20,000 autonomous I-Pace crossovers over the next two years.
Touting the I-Pace’s large 90-kWh battery pack with 240 miles of range, and its modern electrical architecture, Waymo CEO John Krafcik says the Jaguar is “the best next vehicle for Waymo.” Krafcik predicts the I-Pace’s large battery will allow its autonomous EVs to serve Waymo’s Phoenix-area customers for a full day without needing to recharge, while its robust electrical architecture will allow Waymo’s self-driving hardware and software to operate effectively.
“Our focus is on creating the world’s most experienced driver,” said Krafcik of Waymo’s software. The CEO says its autonomous “drivers” will be able to collectively learn from the experience each of its eventual 20,000 I-Paces goes through on an average day. This collective learning, combined with the I-Pace’s robust electrical architecture, is hoped to allow Waymo to avoid the same fate of rival Uber, which is currently dealing with the fallout from the first-ever pedestrian death caused by an autonomous car.
“Safety is the overwhelming number one priority for Waymo,” said Krafcik when asked about the Uber incident.
Jaguar stands to benefit greatly from the Waymo partnership too. Though it may be tempting to look at the partnership as a way to jumpstart I-Pace sales, Jaguar-Land Rover CEO Dr. Ralf Speth said at the conference that’s not the case. Speth says that Jaguar would frankly be challenged to deliver 20,000 I-Paces to Waymo over 2018 and 2019 as Jaguar already has high customer demand for its new electric crossover.
Instead where Jaguar will benefit is in marketing and technology. A fleet of 20,000 autonomous Jaguars roaming around Waymo’s 100 square miles of operating area in Phoenix (soon to be 600 square miles, says Krafcik), will allow the I-Pace to jump to the forefront of the electric car conversation so often dominated by rival Tesla. Jaguar-Land Rover will also in the future be able to license Waymo’s technology for use in its own cars, once Waymo has regulatory approval.
Waymo says its autonomous 2019 Jaguar I-Pace models, along with its existing Chrysler Pacifica Plug-In Hybrids, will begin taking passengers for rides in Phoenix starting this year.