Volvo and Waymo explore their own route for self-driving taxis

Companies agree exclusive global partnership to develop vehicles for ride-hailing use

FILE - In this Dec. 13, 2016, file photo, a skylight is reflected in the rear window of a Waymo driverless car during a Google event in San Francisco. The latest challenge for the autonomous vehicle industry: How to assure passengers that the car they are getting in is virus free, even if it doesn't have a driver. An executive with Waymo said Wednesday, June 17, 2020 that the coronavirus pandemic forced it to put its limited ride service in the Phoenix area on hold to make sure human backup drivers and passengers were safe. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

Waymo and the Volvo Cars Group have agreed to develop a self-driving electric vehicle designed for ride hailing use, as part of a new global partnership, the companies said on Thursday.

Waymo, a unit of Google's parent company Alphabet, said it will be the exclusive global partner for Volvo Cars for developing self-driving vehicles capable of operating safely without routine driver intervention. Waymo will focus on the artificial intelligence for the software "driver". Volvo will design and manufacture the vehicles. The companies said Waymo will work with Volvo's global brands, including Polestar and Lynk & Co.

Volvo, owned by China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, has a separate agreement to deliver vehicles to ride hailing company Uber Technologies that Uber will equip to operate as self-driving vehicles. Volvo Cars is continuing to deliver vehicles to Uber.

Uber's development of self-driving vehicle technology was disrupted after a self-driving Volvo SUV operated by Uber struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona in 2018. More recently, Uber has been slashing costs and staff to offset revenue lost to the coronavirus pandemic. Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi has said Uber is open to using competitors' technology.

The Waymo-Volvo deal marks a return by Waymo to its early goal of rethinking how cars that can pilot themselves should look. Since retiring its Firefly self-driving car in 2017, Waymo has retrofitted its software and sensors into conventional vehicles such as Chrysler Pacifica minivans.

Rival Cruise, majority-owned by General Motors, last year unveiled a prototype for an electric, self-driving people carrier called the Cruise Origin.

Waymo and Volvo did not say when or where they expect to launch their new ride-hailing vehicle.

Waymo said it will continue working with Fiat Chrysler, Jaguar Land Rover and the Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance.

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