Google’s autonomous car division Waymo is pressing ahead with its autonomous ride-sharing service in Arizona. The company has announced that the autonomous taxi service will soon be available to the general public in the service area. It’s currently only open to “Early Riders,” who have been testing it for months. Waymo is also adding a second vehicle to its autonomous fleet; thousands of Jaguar I-PACE electric SUVs will be joining the self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans that are already cruising the streets in the Phoenix area.
Waymo teams up with Jaguar
Executives for Waymo spoke on various topics related to autonomous driving an event where they made the joint announcement about the I-PACE SUVs with Jaguar executives. The two companies said they’ve agreed to work together on a huge fleet of electric SUVs fitted with Waymo’s self-driving technology.
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They plan to build as many as 20,000 I-PACE electric SUVs within the first two years. The SUVs will be earmarked for Waymo’s autonomous taxi service, and the two companies estimate that they could handle up to 1 million trips daily once they’re on the road. The financial terms of the deal were not announced, but Bloomberg estimates the value at over $1.3 billion, given that Waymo is expected to buy the I-PACE SUVs, which have a price tag of about $69,500.
The Jaguar I-PACE is expected to be a strong competitor for the Tesla Model X in the luxury SUV space. The vehicle is expected to have a range of about 240 miles on a full charge and will be able to go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in less than 5 seconds. The electric SUV’s price is also about $10,000 lower than the starting price of Tesla’s Model X, notes Fortune.
Autonomous car space rocked by first pedestrian death
It’s been roughly a week since it was reported that one of Uber’s self-driving vehicles hit and killed a pedestrian in Arizona. Governor Doug Ducey ordered the ride-sharing firm to halt testing on its self-driving vehicles within the state as a result of the accident, although it had already done so, not only in Arizona, but also in San Francisco, Toronto and Pittsburgh, according to The New York Times.
Many other autonomous driving firms are proceeding more cautiously now that we’ve seen what could be the first pedestrian death resulting from the technology, but Waymo is pressing forward even more aggressively. The Wall Street Journal reports that Waymo CEO John Krafcik said he’s confident that their technology would not have hit 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg earlier this month.
He also emphasized that they will continue to focus on safety, which he described as their “overwhelming, number-one priority.” He added that they are designing the Jaguar I-PACE to be a “very safe benchmark for the world.”
Waymo reveals expansion of autonomous taxi service
Today’s announcement ahead of the New York Auto Show also included further details about the expansion of Waymo’s autonomous taxi service. By the end of this year, the company’s autonomous minivans will begin providing service to anyone who wants to ride in them instead of limiting service to so-called “Early Riders” participating in the tests for the program. Krafcik said the autonomous taxi service will operate within a set area of approximately 100 square miles in the Phoenix area. Over time, the vehicles’ service areas will expand gradually to 600 square miles, reports The Drive.
He also said that they don’t intend to become a car company. Instead, they’re targeting four niche areas of the transportation industry, which are ride-sharing, trucking, licensing and “last-mile transportation,” which transports passengers to and from public transport hubs such as train stations and bus depots.