Jaguar sees Shannon as world centre for self-driving cars
Ireland's highly skilled and "very special" workforce could make a Shannon-based autonomous car project a world leader within five years, the head of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) worldwide claimed last night.
Dr Ralf Speth said the company's new 150-job software engineering centre at Shannon - to develop advanced automated driving and electrification technologies - could "create something very special" due to the skilled and "passionate" workforce.
The CEO's comments followed his visit to the site earlier yesterday. Prof Speth was speaking last night a gala event to mark the opening of a state-of-the-art Spirit Jaguar Land Rover outlet at Arena Road, Sandyford Business Park, Dublin.
The opening of the outlet coincided with the unveiling in Ireland of the company's first electric vehicle, the I-PACE.
Meantime, the Shannon centre will play a vital role in the company's plans for electric and automated driving vehicles, Dr Speth said.
It will develop technologies to support electrification and self-driving elements on future Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles.
He told the Irish Independent that being an island may sometimes be seen as a disadvantage but sometimes it can be a huge advantage in that companies can visualise, show and demonstrate new ideas and developments that set standards for others. The project was supported by the IDA.
He said autonomous driving - a cornerstone of the Shannon project - must come after electrification.
Electric cars are the future, he insisted, but was forthright in claiming that the internal combustion engine will have a major role to play for many years yet. "Diesel is a very, very good engine," he said.
He appealed for a move away from "emotional discussion" on diesel to a "scientific one" based on facts and figures. Prof Speth was also speaking after JLR's recent publication of record sales figures and revenue.
However, he was 'concerned' over a drop in sales in the UK which he regards as the company's heartland.
Among reasons for the decline, he cited the introduction of a new car-tax regime which he said would mean older cars staying on the roads for longer.
JLR is almost 10 years under Tata ownership and in that time sales have gone from 195,000 in 2008 to 614,000 now.
And they have extended models from eight to 14 and employ 42,000 globally.