As Uber Technologies Inc. reels from a fatal crash involving one of its autonomous vehicles, rival Waymo is moving ahead, buying as many as 20,000 Jaguar vehicles for its robot fleet.
The deal, announced Tuesday, is potentially worth more than $1 billion, and escalates Waymo’s effort to put vehicles on public roads without human drivers behind the wheel.
Waymo will add its driverless technology to the new Jaguar I-Pace all-electric sport-utility vehicle and it said it would begin testing this year before deploying the SUVs in 2020. The companies said as many as 20,000 of the SUVs will be built in the first two years, and more vehicles could be purchased after that.
On Monday, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who has been welcoming of driverless technology in the state, sent a letter to Uber’s CEO saying he would suspend the company’s testing after “an unquestionable failure” to comply with expectations of public safety.
Waymo’s chief executive, John Krafcik, has expressed confidence in the aftermath of the crash, telling car dealers at a convention in Las Vegas on Saturday his company’s technology would have avoided hitting the pedestrian. Uber, in response to those remarks, said, “Safety is our primary concern every step of the way.”
Waymo says a fleet of 20,000 Jaguars could serve a million trips a day. A fleet about that size has the potential to service a small to midsize community, according to research conducted by Larry Burns, who has consulted for Waymo and worked at General Motors as head of research and development.
In a 2013 study with Columbia University’s Earth Institute, his team focused on Ann Arbor, Mich., a community of about 285,000 at the time, and calculated that a fleet of about 18,000 driverless cars could handle the needs of 120,000 customers who drive less than 70 miles a day.
The Show Goes On
I see no reason to not believe Waymo about its technology. Uber got caught testing systems that were not ready. That decision will put it further behind Waymo.
A 2020 time frame for Waymo's fleet still seems reasonable. Yet, many of my readers still insist this technology is decades away.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock