Tech firms with little experience building vehicles undertake much of the work in developing self-driving technology. This is one of the reasons automakers are actively forming partnerships with companies outside the traditional automotive industry to incorporate future technology features such as cloud connectivity and advanced autonomous driving hardware and software into their future production vehicles. Such is the example of the expansion of the self-driving footprint of Waymo software— this time in a partnership with Volvo Car Group. Here, we will see the announcement of the two companies about the “exclusive” partnership to integrate Waymo’s self-driving software into a new, ride-hailing electric vehicle.
Table of Contents
- What are robotaxis?
- Waymo and Volvo Partnership
- Where do we stand?
Online professional courses are on the rise, consider taking up one today. Let’s take a look below at what robotaxis are and what they hold for the future.
What are robotaxis?
An autonomous car operated for a ridesharing company is a robotaxi known as a self-driving taxi or a driverless taxi. Eliminating the necessity for a human chauffeur, which represents a significant part of that type of service’s operating costs, could make it a very affordable solution for the customers and accelerate the spread of Transportation-as-a-Service (TaaS) solutions as opposed to individual car ownership. Several studies have highlighted that robotic taxis operating on an Autonomous Mobility on Demand (AMoD) service could be one of the most rapidly adopted autonomous car applications on a scale and a significant mobility solution soon, particularly in urban areas. With regard to pollution and the consumption of energy and other resources, robotic taxis could lead to significant improvements as these services are most likely to use electric cars. For most rides, less vehicle size and range are required compared to standard individual vehicles. The expected reduction in the number of vehicles means less energy consumption but less energy consumption.
Waymo and Volvo Partnership
Waymo and Volvo provided few details about the partnership and what electric robotaxis might look like, except that the companies will first work together to integrate the Waymo Driver into an all-new mobility-focused electric vehicle platform for ride-hailing services. The new vehicle platform will be competent of level 4 autonomy, a designation by SAE that means it can handle all driving in a particular geographic area or under certain weather and road conditions.
The partnership also includes other Volvo Car Group subsidiaries, including Polestar and Lynk & Co, which are electric performance brands. Fully autonomous vehicles can potentially improve road safety to previously unseen levels and revolutionize people’s way of living, working, and traveling. Volvo’s partnership with Waymo is giving Volvo Cars, Polestar, and Lynk & Co new and exciting business opportunities. The term “exclusivity” is additionally used to describe this partnership. But it’s hard to know where this is headed without specific details and what “exclusive” actually means. The term exclusivity is used to describe Waymo’s Level 4 self-driving software, which suggests that the two companies could co-develop or share sensitive information about the stack’s internal workings. It also suggests the partnership is structured to include a possible licensing arrangement. Up until now, Waymo’s strategy has been to partner with automakers. Waymo handles its hardware suite design, software, and computing system. It then works with the automakers to build vehicles that easily integrate with its so-called Waymo Driver. These relationships have focused mostly on ride-hailing applications but could be customized to make the vehicles more suitable for local delivery, trucking, and ownership of the personal cars.
This could be similar to Waymo’s partnership with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles if a licensing deal between the two companies materializes. In May 2018, FCA announced it was expanding its contract with Waymo to provide up to 62,000 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans for the self-driving car company. At the time, FCA also said it was exploring ways to license Waymo’s self-driving car technology to deploy the tech to consumers in automobiles.
Waymo has a supplier partnership for up to 20,000 all-electric I-Pace vehicles, with Jaguar Land Rover. In June 2020, Waymo secured a partnership with Renault and Nissan to investigate how autonomous commercial vehicles in France and Japan might work for passengers and packages.
However, Volvo still has a deal with Uber Advanced Technologies Group self-driving unit Uber. Volvo and Uber ATG both have confirmed that their four-year partnership remains intact. Under that partnership, Volvo supplies Uber with a vehicle designed to drive autonomously. These unique Volvo XC90 cars are equipped with the necessary hardware to support Uber’s self-driving software. Uber then integrates the vehicle into its self-driving software stack. Volvo has a framework agreement with Uber to supply tens of thousands of autonomous vehicles ready for the drive.
Where do we stand?
Several firms are testing robotaxi services, particularly in Asia and the US. In most tests, these test cars contain human chauffeurs or “safety drivers” for taking control back in case of an emergency.
- MIT spinoff NuTonomy was the first company to make robotaxis available to the public in August 2016.
- In September 2016, Uber began allowing a select group of users to order robotaxis from a fleet of 14 modified Ford Fusions in Pittsburgh.
- In early 2017, Waymo, Google’s self-driving car project that became an independent company in 2016, launched an extensive public robotaxi test in Phoenix using 100 and 500 more Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans supplied by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles as part of a partnership between the two companies. Waymo also signed a partnership agreement with Lyft in May 2017 to collaborate on self-driving cars.
- In August 2017, Cruise Automation, a self-driving startup acquired by General Motors in 2016, used a fleet of 46 Chevrolet Bolt EVs to launch the beta version of a robotaxi service for its employees in San Francisco.
- Tesla, Inc. has announced they are preparing to launch their robotaxis service by 2020.
Many automakers have announced plans to develop robotaxis before 2025, and specific partnerships between automakers, technology providers, and service operators have been signed. The Waymo and Volvo partnership could result in a revolution in the automation industry. There are plenty of professional certificate programs that help you stay tech informed, Enroll now!