Jaguar Land Rover unveiled a new design concept this week that it says will guide the venerable German carmaker into the age of autonomous, electric vehicles.
"We've created a new concept car which can deliver mobility for individuals but also for public services," CEO Ralf Speth told Cheddar.
What Jaguar calls Project Vector is not a new car model but rather a multi-use design that could serve as the bones for future electric vehicles with a variety of personal and commercial uses.
At the heart of the project is bold speculation on the part of Jaguar — which has spent much of its history manufacturing personal sports cars and SUVs — that a mix of private and shared vehicles and on-demand services will dominate urban travel in the future.
Project Vector is the opening gambit for Jaguar as it prepares for that reality, Speth said.
The vehicle is about 13 feet long, with its battery and drivetrain components built into a flat floor. The open format allows for both private and shared uses, including commercial applications, such as the crucial last mile of delivery in congested urban areas.
Jaguar's first electric vehicle, I-PACE, was released in 2018 and has informed the designs for Project Vector. The company used a number of its existing patents.
Another hedge against the future is making the vehicle "autonomy-ready," which means Project Vector is designed to incorporate new driverless technology as it emerges.
To prepare the public for the possibility of shared driverless cars, Jaguar is working with local officials to test a public mobility service on the streets of Coventry, England in 2021.
This "living laboratory" will serve as a test case on how digital infrastructure in the world can work with autonomous vehicles.
"The megatrends of urbanisation and digitalisation make connected urban mobility systems necessary and inevitable," said Project Director Dr. Tim Leverton in a statement. "Shared and private vehicles will share spaces with and be connected to public transit networks, so you can travel on demand and autonomously. That is a complex task, best achieved by working together with partners across the spectrum of vehicles, infrastructure and the digital world."
Project Vector serves a broader corporate mission for Jaguar as well. The company's Destination Zero initiative aims to achieve zero emissions, zero accidents, and zero congestion through Jaguar products, services, and facilities. Remaining open to new technology is key to that, Speth said.
"If you calculate the energy efficiency, then the electric drive is the mobility of the future, but it's also quite clear that mobility demand can't be funneled down to one technical solution," he added.