Alphabet’s self-driving unit Waymo said it will include 20,000 Jaguar I-PACE electric vehicles in its upcoming autonomous fleet, with tests to start later this year, amid rising concern over driverless technology following Uber’s fatal self-driving crash last week.
“We’ll add up to 20,000 I-PACEs to Waymo’s fleet in the next few years – that’s enough to drive about a million trips in a typical day,” Waymo said in a blog post.
The electric Jaguar SUV, equipped with Waymo’s self-driving technology, will begin testing this year and will be incorporated into the fleet in 2020, Reuters reports, noting that up to 20,000 electric vehicles will be available by 2022.
Waymo chief executive John Krafcik said the company is expecting a more diverse robo-taxi fleet. “You will see increasing diversity in our fleet mix as we go forward,” he told the news agency.
The electric Jaguar SUVs will join Chrysler Pacifica minivans in the fleet. Waymo had earlier said collaboration with Honda Motor was under discussion, according to Reuters.
Launched earlier this month, Jaguar’s all-electric I-PACE is the first battery-powered vehicle for the brand, which is expected to be a rival to Tesla’s Model X. According to Waymo, the modified I-PACE will be a “premium” electric self-driving vehicle in its fleet.
Waymo started developing self-driving cars in 2009 and has driven over 5 million miles on public roads. According to tech media The Verge, the company has been testing its autonomous technology on public roads since 2016.
In November 2017, it announced its fleet would operate in “fully autonomous” mode – without a human driver at the wheel – in an area of the Phoenix metro region.
Krafcik said the company is confident that “what we’re putting on the road is safe technology”. Jaguar Land Rover chief executive Ralf Speth said the two companies had been in talks for about a year, and Jaguar is confident the Waymo technology is safe.
The public sentiment was not well towards the driverless ride-hailing service after the fatal crash of Uber’s self-driving vehicle last Sunday in the state of Arizona.
It is the first fatality involving a pedestrian hit by an autonomous vehicle. After the incident, Uber has suspended its self-driving vehicle testing in Arizona, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.
Commenting on the crash, Krafcik said at an event: “At Waymo, we have a lot of confidence that our technology would be able to handle a situation like that.”
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