Waymo and Volvo join forces to create electric robotaxis

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Waymo is training its self-driving algorithms from home with simulations.

While the future of the rideshare industry remains unknown, several companies are continuing to push forward with their so-called “robotaxi” initiatives. Established firms and startups alike seek to develop fleets of self-driving cars that function similarly to services like Uber and Lyft.

On Thursday, one of the best-known autonomous driving companies in the world, Waymo, announced a partnership with Volvo. The duo aims to create a self-driving car built for the purpose of ride-hailing. As of now the exact details of the partnership remain shrouded in secrecy. However, Volvo is calling its partnership with Waymo “exclusive.”

Further Growth

Waymo’s reputation for self-driving cars has grown immensely in the past few years. It is operating pilot programs in several cities in the U.S. while continuing to develop its autonomous driving algorithms. In fact, it even operates a small rideshare service with its vehicles in Phoenix, Arizona.

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However, some of the startup’s biggest accomplishments include partnerships with notable car companies. Volvo is the latest to sign a deal with Waymo. The agreement extends not only to Volvo’s main lineup of cars but also to its subsidiaries—electric performance brand Polestar and Chinese brand Lynk & Co. In the next few years, Volvo is planning to release several new electric cars, including the XC40 Recharge and the Polestar 2.

Waymo also has preexisting agreements with Nissan, Fiat Chrysler, and Jaguar Land Rover.

Volvo’s CEO, Henrik Green, said in a statement, “Fully autonomous vehicles have the potential to improve road safety to previously unseen levels and to revolutionize the way people live, work and travel.”

He adds, “Our partnership with Waymo opens up new and exciting business opportunities for Volvo Cars, Polestar and Lynk & Co.”

The duo will work to include Waymo’s Level 4 self-driving technology into Volvo’s vehicles. Notably, cars operating with Level 4 tech are able to drive without a human behind the wheel so long as they remain within geographical boundaries and the weather is clear.

Changing Plans

Interestingly, this isn’t the first time that Volvo has gone all-in on self-driving taxis. The automaker signed a deal with Uber’s autonomous division several years ago. However, it scrapped the plan after an Uber test vehicle killed a pedestrian in a 2017 accident. The Tempe, Arizona, incident drew countless headlines.

While Volvo still has a partnership with Uber, it appears that the carmaker may be changing course. In the meantime, it is still providing Uber with a vehicle designed specifically for autonomous driving—the Volvo XC90.

As for Waymo, it will likely handle this partnership similarly to how it has handled the rest. The startup typically sticks to developing software while automakers work on vehicles that will be compatible with it. For instance, Fiat Chrysler is supplying Waymo with a fleet of 62,000 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans for its rideshare programs and self-driving test runs.

Waymo is working with Nissan to determine how autonomous vehicles might be sold commercially to customers in France and Japan.

The Google subsidiary certainly knows its way around partnerships. It will be interesting to see how its various deals play out as self-driving cars become more popular in the next few years.

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