Prototypes out by year end.
As if Jaguar’s new electric crossover, the I-Pace, couldn’t get any cooler, the company has inked a deal with Google’s autonomous driving project Waymo to supply as many as twenty thousand of the sleek SUVs to serve as a high-end option for the latter company’s commercial ride-hailing platform. The I-Pace EVs will join the existing 600 Chrysler Pacifica minivans and Lexus RX SUVs, the latter of which are being phased out in stages.
The first of the autonomous I-Paces will hit the road by the end of the year, though integration into the commercial end of the business will begin in 2020. Unlike the Pacifica minivans, that had to have all the autonomous addenda grafted onto it by Waymo, the deal between Jaguar and Waymo will see engineers from both companies working side-by-side to ensure that the prototype I-Pace crossovers will be autonomy-capable from the get-go.
Waymo has been running fully-autonomous driving tests, with no driver present at all, since November last year, though only to a very limited number of customers. The I-Pace undoubtedly increases the appeal of the ride-hailing service though, as Jaguar’s sexy EV has been seen as the long-awaited usurper to the Tesla Model X, that has dominated the EV crossover space since it debuted/invented it.
With the Waymo deal, JLR continues its headlong push into autonomous driving capabilities. It began doing so last year on a closed stretch of road near their headquarters in Coventry, while the company has invested in the tens of millions in ride-hailing company Lyft to further their autonomous driving research and development.
While there’s no doubt that this deal is a momentous one for Jaguar-Land Rover, Waymo, and vehicular autonomy in general, the timing of the announcement is rather unfortunate. Just last week, a woman succumbed to her injuries after being hit by a fully-autonomous Uber test car (with human safety supervisor present) in Tempe, Arizona. The incident is still under investigation, though preliminary investigations have revealed that the autonomous driving system was likely not to have been at fault.