Barely a day has passed, and we still feel the sensation feeling in the scene. The partnership between Waymo and Jaguar, which will bring 20,000 autonomous EVs operating them as robotaxi fleet with level 4 driving capabilities on the roads within the next two years, makes competitors nervous. Extremely nervous. And it should.
They were still occupied with understanding the ramification of the fatal crash with an Uber vehicle, where now multiple companies stopped (or had to stop) their autonomous driving activities either temporarily (NVIDIA, Toyota) or potential indefinitely (Uber), while Waymo is heading to the next level without missing a beat.
Waymo’s lead in the development of self-driving car technology is already mind boggling today. While Uber was struggling to bring disengagement rates above every 13 miles (20 kilometers), Waymo is dimensions farther with one disengagement only every 5,400 miles (9,000 kilometers).
With the rollout of 20,000 Jaguars and several thousand Fiat Chrysler Pacifica Minivans, this lead will only increase. Waymo-Jaguar expect that with this fleet they will be able to offer one million rides every day. Assuming that the cars are on average 10 hours a day operating and drive 20 miles (30 Kilometers) per hour, those cars will drive 3 million miles (5 million kilometers) per day. To compare those numbers: after more than 8 years of testing autonomous cars, Waymo has reached 5 million miles (8 million kilometers). Adding million miles every day the learning and safety of the cars increases exponentially. Every new and critical driving scenario experienced by one car in the fleet can then be integrated in them machine learning systems and shared with all vehicles in the fleet.
We are seeing the realization of what Oxford philosophy professor Nick Bostrom described three years in his bestseller Superintelligence. because of the exponential nature of artificial intelligence, the learning and resulting capabilities of Waymo’s AI-system is accelerating. All other manufacturers are losing ground. And what passenger is voluntarily accepting to ride in a car that much less safe than then Jaguar-Waymo?
Impact on Jaguar
But what does that deal mean for Jaguar? The company has certainly created a very attractive premium car with its electric i-Pace, manufactured by Magna/Steyr in Austria. Equipping it with self-driving technology by Waymo catapults Jaguar to the technological peak of all premium manufacturers.
Jaguar is getting the chance to design the future, and learn from the experiences with Waymo-technology and survive. As a good and reliable partner for Waymo, a long partnership could develop, which could make Jaguar to a heavy weight in the future mobility landscape.
But there is a drop of bitterness. The partnership with Waymo could turn out to be Tosca’s Kiss. As little as you care today whether your Uber or Taxi is a Prius or another make, the brand Jaguar could become marginal and blurred. Not surprisingly, the first thing one notices on the picture above is the Waymo logo, not the one from Jaguar. As a passenger I will be more interested in price, safety, comfort, speed, and if there is a charging plug for my smartphone. Today almost no passenger pays attention whether you fly an Airbus or a Boeing, or use a Bombardier or Siemens train.
And even if, then the Jaguar brand my become known as a taxi-service. Even though Mercedes provides today most of the taxis driving in the German-speaking countries,, the company managed to position those work horses as a positive image for the overall brand. Reliable in intensive use, and still a premium brand. If Jaguar is able to pull that off will be seen.
The OEM Becomes A Supplier
But maybe the Waymo-partnership was the last chance for Jaguar to survive the future. Less brand recognition, but an important partner for a technologically and financially dominant partner. Jaguar and many other OEMs need Waymo more than Waymo needs them.
Thus we can observe live how OEMs are transformed into Waymo-suppliers. The power relation in the new digital world has forever changed .
This article has also been published in German.