Volvo has inked an exclusive deal with autonomous driving company Waymo, with a plan that would see the Swedish-Chinese car maker go head-to-head with Tesla in the race to develop a fleet of robotaxis.
The strategic plan, which encapsulates Volvo’s electric brand Polestar and its car-share arm Lynk & Co, was announced by both companies on Thursday (US time).
Under the agreement, Waymo – first created by Google and now perched alongside it under the umbrella of its parent Alphabet – will be Volvo’s exclusive L4 partner developing an “all-new mobility-focused electric vehicle platform for ride hailing services”, the company stated in a release.
Autonomous ride-sharing is set to become an indispensable part of the mobility landscape over the next decade, with market analysis predicting a $SU60 billion industry by 2030 if it reaches full Level 5 autonomy according to Research and Markets.
While it is thought that Level 2 and Level 3 autonomy, the latter of which requires a driver to be both alert and ready to take over, will be largely accepted by 2030, Level 4 technology such as Waymo’s must address concerns of cyber attacks and the ability to correctly identify and safely navigate all common, and uncommon, road obstacles and pedestrians without fail.
Waymo has already forged similar partnerships with Nissan-Renault, Fiat-Chrysler and Jagaar Land Rover. Its 5th generation technology first outlined in March consists of a combination of sensors including long range cameras, radar, and LiDAR on top of a vehicle for 360 degree vision, as well as various perimeter vision sensors on the front and rear of the vehicle.
Adam Frost, chief automotive officer for Waymo, said of the Volvo-Waymo partnership in a statement that it will help “pave the path to the deployment of the Waymo Driver globally in years to come, and represents an important milestone in the highly competitive autonomous vehicle industry.”
Waymo says its strategic partnerships will help it to formulate what it calls the “World’s Most Experienced Driver”, in which it focuses on the hardware and software required to enable self-driving capabilities and then works with car makers to develop vehicles with which the Waymo technology can easily integrate.
“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,” said Frost.
For Volvo, which stands by its motto of being a “global leader in automotive safety”, the partnership with Waymo will help it work towards safer roads.
“Fully autonomous vehicles have the potential to improve road safety to previously unseen levels and to revolutionize the way people live, work and travel,” said Henrik Green, CTO for Volvo Car Group, in a statement.
The partnership follows on a similar announcement from Mercedes-Benz, which on Wednesday (Australian time) announced it has inked a deal with Nvidia, supplier of GPU units for Tesla’s V2.0 hardware before it began making its oan “all-in-one” AI chip.
The Mercedes-Benz/Nvidia deal will see the two works towards creating a “revolutionary in-vehicle computing system and AI computing infrastructure” to enable the German car maker to roll out a next generation fleet of vehicles with upgradable and automated driving functions.
US retail giant Amazon – which has invested $US700 million ($A1 billion) and order 100,000 electric vans from Michigan-based Rivian – has also demonstrated an interest in autonomous driving.
In late May, it was revealed that the reail giant was considering buying Zoox, an autonomous startup backed by Australian tech entrepreneur Michael Cannon-Brookes’ venture capital company Grok Ventures.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.