Jaguar Land Rover is the latest automaker to unveil an electric and “autonomy ready” shuttle pod designed for shared use in urban settings. “Project Vector” is just a concept, but the UK carmaker said it hopes to have some version of the vehicle on the road for testing by 2021.
For now, the automaker is keeping most of its specs under wraps. The vehicle is four meters long, with a motor and battery pack built into a flat floor, but JLR won’t reveal the size of the battery or the range of the vehicle. The interior can be adjusted for private or shared use as well as for last-mile delivery service.
Unlike GM and Honda’s recently unveiled Cruise Origin autonomous shuttle, JLR’s concept has a driver’s seat and traditional controls for human use. But the vehicle is built to conform to future use cases in which autonomous vehicles are more prominent.
The vehicle was developed at the National Automotive Innovation Centre, which is a joint venture between the University of Warwick, JLR, and its parent company Tata Motor. JLR said it plans to collaborate with local authorities in Coventry to plan a mobility service from late 2021.
Self-driving shuttles are becoming a somewhat common sight, with companies like Optimus Ride, Navya, and May Mobility operating small fleets in fixed routes in cities around the world. But it’s also the kind of business that can be extremely difficult to get right. Drive.ai nearly went out of business before it was bought by Apple. And Navya, a major autonomous shuttle manufacturer based in France, recently announced that it would be pivoting away from the shuttle business in favor of licensing its software to third-party clients.
JLR is no stranger to shared-use autonomy. The company inked a deal with Alphabet’s Waymo to purchase 20,000 Jaguar I-Paces for a fleet of self-driving taxis. At the time, they said the new vehicles would officially become part of Waymo’s commercial ride-hailing service starting in 2020. The company is already testing the new vehicle on public roads around its Mountain View, California, headquarters.
JLR is one of the automakers to be hard hit by the coronavirus outbreak in China. The company is reportedly flying components in suitcases out of the country as it races to prevent its UK plants from closing by the end of the month, according to the Financial Times.