Just days after Uber’s self-driving car effort suffered a major setback, Google Alphabet announced a deal with Jaguar to buy 20,000 cars for its driverless (autonomous) service that it expects to be operational in just four years. The new Jaguar model, designed and built by Jaguar Land Rover, will be used by Google’s Waymo ride-hail service, where you call a car and it picks you up and takes you to your destination, all without a driver. The newly designed car, called the Jaguar I-Pace, will be all-electric and have a range of 230 miles, similar to the Chevy Bolt.
Production will begin in two years and Jaguar expects to build the first 20,000 cars by 2022. The initial roll-out will take place in Phoenix, where testing has begun using Chrysler Pacifica vans.
Waymo has been a leader in developing self-driving cars, and their business model includes licensing their technology to other automakers.
But Waymo, along with the many other companies developing autonomous cars, will face resistance from regulators after a self-driving Uber vehicle hit and killed a woman crossing a street in Tempe, Ariz., with an observer in the car.
The accident occurred on a dark highway with the car traveling 40mph. Its sensors were designed to detect obstacles in the roadway such as pedestrians, but failed to work, and the onboard observer was not paying attention at the time of the accident.
As a result, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey ordered Uber to halt all its testing in Arizona. This, after Ducey urged Uber and other self-driving car companies to leave California and come to Arizona, promising them that there would be none of the regulations that California required. He even promised the car companies that they would not need to disclose anything about their programs or any accidents that might occur.
“Arizona welcomes Uber self-driving cars with open arms and wide-open roads. While California puts the brakes on innovation and change with more bureaucracy and more regulation, Arizona is paving the way for new technology and new businesses,” he said in a statement. “California may not want you, but we do.”
He was referring to California DMV’s ban on Uber self-driving cars in San Francisco because the company refused to apply for an autonomous testing permit.
The developing and testing of self-driving cars involves solving a myriad of very complex problems that need to address all sorts of traffic and pedestrian patterns and road situations. Autonomous cars have been touted by their developers as a way to save thousands of lives when fully operational. But saving lives will need to wait a bit because of this death. Surprisingly, what occurred in the Uber accident leading to the fatality was one of the simplest of conditions an autonomous car needs to handle: an obstacle in front of the car traveling on a straight road.