Volvo Cars, with its Polestar and Lynk & Co. brands, has entered into a strategic partnership with Waymo. They aim to integrate Waymo’s technologies for autonomous driving into a new electric vehicle platform for ride-hailing services.
Waymo, a unit of Silicon Valley’s Alphabet Inc, that is essentially Google, said it would be the exclusive global partner for Volvo Cars for developing self-driving vehicles to L4, meaning the cars are capable of operating safely without routine driver intervention.
Waymo will focus on artificial intelligence and certain hardware, including cameras, lidar and radar. Volvo will design and manufacture the vehicles. What’s more, the company, including Polestar and Lynk & Co says the primary goal is to integrate the ‘Waymo Driver’ into an “all-new mobility-focused electric vehicle platform for ride-hailing services”.
This is a move that puts Waymo back on its initial trajectory – when Google set up the autonomous driving unit in the Firefly pods in 2017, it was to figure out new vehicle designs. Since then, the company has focussed on integrating its tech into conventional vehicles which have become increasingly electric.
In 2018, Waymo made a deal with Jaguar Land Rover to launch a 20,000 strong fleet of self-driving taxis based on the I-Pace in the long-term as reported. Fiat Chrysler and the Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance are also working with Waymo. Besides, Tesla has been planning to launch its peer-to-peer ‘Robotaxi’ service this year for some time, provided the authorities allow it and using its own technology.
For the new Waymo-Volvo deal, none of the partners disclosed when or where they expect to launch their new ride-hailing vehicle. Adam Frost, Waymo chief automotive officer, only said they consider this a “key partnership” that will help to “pave the path to the deployment of the Waymo Driver abroad in years to come”.
For Volvo Cars, the new partnership won’t affect its deal with ride-hailing provider Uber dating back to 2017. The company, in a drive to replace human drivers in its fleet, had ordered 24,000 Volvo cars designed for autonomous driving between 2019 and 2021. The chosen model was the XC90 plug-in hybrid as reported. Uber has since pushed for human drivers to switch to all-electric cars, however.
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