So far as self-driving startups go, Waymo is farther along than most with tens of millions of miles covered by its test vehicles and number of partnerships in place with household names like Walmart and Jaguar. It can now add Volvo to that list, with the two forming an agreement to develop autonomous electric vehicles for ride-hailing services.
The new deal echoes a similar arrangement made between Jaguar Land Rover and Waymo back in 2018, with the former providing the vehicles and the latter providing the systems needed to make them autonomous. That announcement was accompanied by a bold plan to put 20,000 self-driving electric I-Paces on the road over the following few years, though the new partnership with Volvo makes no such proclamations.
The pair only say that they will work together to develop an entirely new electric vehicle platform that incorporates the latest generation of Waymo’s self-driving technology, called Waymo Driver.
Announced back in March, Waymo Driver is capable of some impressive feats. In addition to using its cameras, radar and upgraded lidar sensors to navigate the streets, it can apparently detect a car door opening a city block away, detect debris hundreds of meters up the highway and reduce blind spots by peeking around trucks to see if it is safe to overtake.
The deal with Volvo also sees Waymo become an exclusive Level 4 autonomy partner for Volvo Car Group, which includes spin-off Polestar. Level 4 autonomy is described as high automation, where the car can drive itself full-time under the right circumstances, only calling for human assistance when it encounters something it can’t handle.
“This key partnership with Volvo Car Group helps pave the path to the deployment of the Waymo Driver abroad in years to come, and represents an important milestone in the highly competitive autonomous vehicle industry,” says Waymo chief automotive officer Adam Frost. “Volvo Car Group shares our vision of creating an autonomous future where roads are safer, and transportation is more accessible and greener. We’re thrilled to welcome Volvo Car Group as our latest automotive partner.”
Waymo and Volvo’s partnership is another example of tech companies teaming up with established automakers to usher in the era of self-driving vehicles. It comes hot on the heels of a new agreement between Mercedes-Benz and NVIDIA, which have been working together for a while but this week forged a new deal to develop new computing architecture for a next-generation fleet of Benzes, to be rolled out in 2024.
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