Uber, the ride-hailing-and-sharing service, has linked up with Volvo for a supply of cars with autonomous capabilities. Volvo is expected to sell up to 24,000 of these cars to Uber between 2019 and 2020.
The firm’s XC60, XC90, S90, and V90 models will all form part of the deal. Volvo has already supplied XC90s to Uber for the California-based company to use as part of its autonomous vehicle testing programme.
Volvo supplies the cars with its own Pilot Assist driving technology, which allows a limited, driver-controlled form of autonomous driving, and Uber adds its own software and hardware on top of that.
The deal has the potential for controversy, especially given Volvo’s long-held reputation for safety, and its promise that none of its cars will be involved in a fatal collision from 2020 onwards.
Uber has already built up something of a reputation for flouting rules and regulations in the testing of its autonomous cars, with numerous reports of Uber vehicles running red lights.
Last year, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) revoked Uber's licence to test autonomous cars on state roads, on a technicality. "It was determined that the registrations were improperly issued for these vehicles because they were not properly marked as test vehicles," the DMV said in a statement. "Concurrently, the department invited Uber to seek a permit so their vehicles can operate legally in California."
Nevertheless, Volvo seems keen to push ahead with this plan. “The automotive industry is being disrupted by technology, and Volvo Cars chooses to be an active part of that disruption,” said Håkan Samuelsson, Volvo’s chief executive. “Our aim is to be the supplier of choice for autonomous driving, ride-sharing service providers globally. Monday’s agreement with Uber is a primary example of that strategic direction.”
"We're thrilled to expand our partnership with Volvo," said Jeff Miller, head of auto alliances at Uber. "This new agreement puts us on a path towards mass-produced self-driving vehicles at scale."
Volvo is, separately, pushing ahead with its own plans to develop and market a fully-autonomous vehicle by 2021.