Alphabet’s self-driving car company Waymo announces purchase of 20,000 vehicles for new autonomous fleet

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Waymo, an autonomous-car company, announced today that they would be greatly expanding efforts to increase their driverless ride service over the next few years. Waymo was formerly a part of Google’s self-driving car project, but has since spun-off to become a part of Google’s parent company, Alphabet.

They have announced their plans to purchase up to 20,000 electric cars from Jaguar Land Rover and furnish them with new equipment, including radars, camera, and sensors. These are used to allow the cars to drive around on public roads by themselves.

Waymo will be using these cars to develop a ride-hailing service that will compete with the likes of Uber and Lyft, both of which are pursuing driverless technology. Their cars are set to be rolling in Phoenix by the end of the year, with other cities joining come next year. Waymo’s chief executive, John Kracfik, said they hope to eventually provide a million rides a day with this newly purchased fleet of cars.

This news comes nearly a week after a driverless vehicle operated by Uber struck and killed a woman crossing the street in Tempe, Arizona. A safety driver was in the car at the time, but the vehicle was in the autonomous mode when it hit and killed Elaine Herzberg, 49. Despite the current controversy surrounding driverless vehicles, Krafcik said that he believes Waymo’s technology would have been able to detect the crossing pedestrian and initiated an evasive move in order to avoid hitting her.

“We have a lot of confidence that our technology would be robust and would be able to handle situations like that one,” he said during a gathering of the National Automobile Dealers Association in Las Vegas. Waymo has been testing their vehicles on public roads since 2009. They’ve said their autonomous vehicles have driven over five million miles during testing, two million more than Uber during their testing.

The Jaguar vehicles being used by Waymo are the Jaguar I-Pace, a battery-powered hatchback that was just announced last month. They are currently being produced at an Austrian plant to fill the large order for Waymo’s autonomous vehicle fleet. Waymo will then import the vehicles to the US, in hopes to have their fleet up and running by the end of 2018.

Other car manufacturers have suspended further testing of their self-driving car programs on public roads due to the fatal Uber accident. Toyota Motor announced they will halt their testing until further improvements can be made to prevent future fatalities and ensure pedestrian safety.

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