Ride-hailing firm Uber announced plans to buy more than 24,000 autonomous vehicles way back in 2017, but the cars themselves have been a long time coming. After a tragic setback and making significant strides in their hardware, however, Volvo is ready to start delivering specially-built XC90 base vehicles equipped with key safety features that will allow Uber to easily install its own self-driving software over Volvo’s own “Pilot Assist” technology.

“By the middle of the next decade we expect one-third of all cars we sell to be fully autonomous,” says Volvo CEO, Håkan Samuelsson. “Our agreement with Uber underlines our ambition to be the supplier of choice to the world’s leading ride-hailing companies.”

The move towards automating its services could help move Uber towards profitability by reducing its most expensive overhead item: drivers. Drivers, it should be noted, that not only represent a huge labor expense but a legal expense as well. The company has, reportedly, earmarked more than $100 million to settle future legal disputes with its drivers as it is— and that’s money that could be used to buy a whole bunch of super safe Volvo XC90s, you know? And the value of that reputation for safety hasn’t been lost on anyone. “Working in close cooperation with companies like Volvo is a key ingredient to effectively building a safe, scalable, self-driving fleet,” explains Eric Meyhofer, CEO of Uber Advanced Technologies Group. “Volvo has long been known for their commitment to safety, which is the cornerstone of their newest production-ready self-driving base vehicle.”

What do you think? Is the fact that the robot driving your kid to school is a Volvo going to convince you that Uber’s service is a safe alternative to, say, a neighborhood carpool? Take a look at the official Volvo/Uber joint press release, below, then let us know what you think of Uber’s planned future as a manager of thousands of Volvo-based taxi robots in the comments section at the bottom of the page. Gain extra points by using the words “future” and “singularity” a few times in your rant, too!

 

Volvo Cars and Uber Present Production Vehicle Ready for Self-driving

Volvo Cars, a leader in automotive safety, and Uber, the leading ride-hailing firm, today present a jointly developed production car capable of driving by itself, the next step in the strategic collaboration between both companies.

Uber and Volvo Cars entered a joint engineering agreement in 2016 and have since developed several prototypes aimed at accelerating the companies’ self-driving car development. The Volvo XC90 SUV presented today is the first production car that in combination with Uber’s self-driving system is capable of fully driving itself.

The XC90 base vehicle is equipped with key safety features that allow Uber to easily install its own self-driving system, enabling the possible future deployment of self-driving cars in Uber’s network as an autonomous ridesharing service.

The most important features of Volvo Cars’ autonomous drive-ready production vehicle include several back-up systems for both steering and braking functions as well as battery back-up power. If any of the primary systems should fail for some reason, the back-up systems are designed to immediately act to bring the car to a stop. In addition to Volvo’s built-in back-up systems, an array of sensors atop and built into the vehicle are designed for Uber’s self-driving system to safely operate and maneuver in an urban environment.

When paired with Volvo’s vehicle platform, Uber’s self-driving system may one day allow for safe, reliable autonomous ridesharing without the need for a Mission Specialist, the specially trained Uber employees operating and overseeing the car in areas designated and suitable for autonomous drive.

The autonomous drive-capable production vehicle revealed today is part of Volvo Cars’ 2016 commercial agreement with Uber for the delivery of tens of thousands of autonomous drive-ready base cars in coming years. “We believe autonomous drive technology will allow us to further improve safety, the foundation of our company,” said Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive of Volvo Cars. “By the middle of the next decade we expect one-third of all cars we sell to be fully autonomous. Our agreement with Uber underlines our ambition to be the supplier of choice to the world’s leading ride-hailing companies.”

“Working in close cooperation with companies like Volvo is a key ingredient to effectively building a safe, scalable, self-driving fleet,” said Eric Meyhofer, CEO of Uber Advanced Technologies Group. “Volvo has long been known for their commitment to safety, which is the cornerstone of their newest production-ready self-driving base vehicle. When paired with our self-driving technology, this vehicle will be a key ingredient in Uber’s autonomous product suite.”

Volvo Cars plans to use a similar autonomous base vehicle concept for the introduction of its future autonomous drive cars in the early 2020s. These technologies, to be introduced on the next generation of Volvo models based on the SPA2 vehicle architecture, will include features designed to enable unsupervised autonomous drive in clearly designated areas such as highways and ring roads.

Volvo Cars believes autonomous drive can generate significant potential road safety benefits for society as a whole when all cars are autonomous. Until that moment, the technology can offer customers a better driving experience by taking away mundane tasks such as stop-start driving in traffic jams.

Source | Images: Uber and Volvo.