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Waymo at last fires up the self-driving smarts of the Jaguar I-Pace

It’s been more than a year since Waymo unveiled a partnership with Jaguar to use its electric I-Pace crossover as part of its autonomous car fleet.

While it took delivery of several of these vehicles in July 2018, for a long time it only used them with human drivers to collect road data around San Francisco.

But in recent days, Waymo has started to use the I-Pace for autonomous driving tests on public roads, TechCrunch reported. One of the modified vehicles was spotted driving close to Waymo’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, with a safety driver behind the wheel. The company later confirmed that the vehicle was being tested in autonomous mode.

Confirmation of the testing takes Waymo a step closer to its plan to incorporate the vehicle into its self-driving ridesharing service that’s currently operating on a limited scale — and with safety drivers — in Phoenix, Arizona. At the current time, the autonomous ridesharing service uses a number of Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans.

The I-Pace, which is Jaguar’s first production electric car, was unveiled at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show. The car is powered by two electric motors that produce a combined 394 horsepower and 512 pound-feet of torque, while its 90-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery offers a range of around 240 miles.

Speaking about the Jaguar partnership last year, Waymo CEO John Krafcik said that after the Chrysler Pacifica minivan, the I-Pace was “the next, best vehicle for Waymo,” pointing to its size and decent range, as well as the fact that it allows the company to add a more deluxe option to its ridesharing service.

It’s not been confirmed how many I-Pace vehicles Waymo wants to add to its fleet, though Krafcik last year suggested it could be as many as 20,000. That might sound like a lot, but in May 2018, the company announced it had inked a deal with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to add 62,000 Pacifica minivans to its fleet in the coming years.

In its early days under the Google banner, the project that became Waymo started with a fleet of modified Toyota Prius and Lexus RX hybrid vehicles, before testing its autonomous tech in the custom-built, pod-like Firefly. These days the Pacifica minivan, and more recently the Jaguar I-Pace, are Waymo’s vehicles of choice.

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