Waymo will be adding 20,000 Jaguar I-PACE electric SUVs to its fleet of self-driving vehicles, the companies announced Tuesday. Jaguar Land Rover introduced the I-PACE earlier this month, and it will serve as a high-end option for consumers willing to pay a premium for driverless ride-hailing services.
According to the companies, the first self-driving I-PACE will begin public testing at the end of 2018. It will officially become part of Waymo’s commercial ride-hailing service starting in 2020. The companies didn’t say what city will be the first to test the self-driving SUVs.
“Our passion for further advancing smart mobility needs expert long-term partners,” said Prof. Dr. Ralf Speth, Jaguar Land Rover chief executive officer. “In joining forces with Waymo we are pioneering to push the boundaries of technology.”
Waymo currently tests its self-driving system on about 600 Chrysler Pacifica minivans built by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The company has plans to roll out a ride service to the public in the Phoenix, Arizona area in coming months, with plans to later launch it more widely.
Watch Waymo’s I-PACE Announcement
Waymo has been working on self-driving cars since 2009 and has driven over 5 million miles on public roads. Last month, it released a video designed to help potential passengers envision what it is like to ride inside an autonomous vehicle.
Waymo Builds Lead in Self-Driving Space
This announcement comes about a week after a fatal accident in Arizona that involved a self-driving Uber. Following the crash, some self-driving companies, including Toyota and Uber, paused self-driving tests. But Waymo continues to push forward. And with another major OEM in its corner, Waymo builds upon its lead in the self-driving space.
The self-driving I-PACE SUVs also pose a challenge to other self-driving electric vehicles from GM’s Cruise and Tesla. Cruise is currently testing hundreds of self-driving electric Chevy Bolts in San Francisco and Arizona with the aim of launching a commercial taxi service in 2019.
The I-PACE is Jaguar’s first all-electric SUV, offering 240 miles of range. It starts at $69,500 in the U.S., undercutting the Tesla Model X by about $10,000. Waymo’s partnership with Jaguar Land Rover extends through 2026.
“Its big, fast-charge battery means it can drive all day, which is perfect for our self-driving service,” said Waymo CEO John Krafcik.
Uber announced last year plans to buy up to 24,000 vehicles from Volvo to add to its self-driving fleet. It’s unclear whether this is still the plan following the fatal accident. Krafcik said the 20,000 self-driving I-PACE SUVs could, theoretically, provide up to 1 million driverless trips a day.
Google launched its self-driving car project nine years ago. To date, the company’s self-driving cars have autonomously driven more than 5 million miles on public roads. And they’ve driven billions more in simulated environments.