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Volvo and Uber ramp up driverless car project

Cars will navigate streets of San Francisco with onboard technicians

Published: December 14, 2016, 9:30 PM
Updated: December 19, 2016, 5:30 AM

Uber Volvo driverless XC90

Volvo is stepping up its autonomous-driving pilot project with help from Uber in San Francisco. The two signed an agreement in August 2016 to jointly develop driverless cars for hire.

Meant to showcase not just the technology potential of autonomous driving but also the strong relationship between Uber and Volvo, the latest phase of the project features specially-converted self-driving XC90 sport utility vehicles.

“The promise of self-driving … is becoming a reality,” said Mårten Levenstam, vice president product planning at Volvo Cars. “Volvo is proud to be at the forefront of the latest developments in the automotive world alongside our partners at Uber.”

Uber Volvo driverless XC90

The cars are built by Volvo and sold to Uber, which installs the necessary software and hardware, including the roof mounted control module. The cars will navigate the streets of San Francisco autonomously, though will have an Uber technician on board at all times, to supervise and document the vehicle’s operation.

For its part, Volvo considers this one part of its 3-phase plan to develop autonomous driving technologies, which also includes the Drive Me project involving 100 cars in public hands on real world roads in Gothenburg, Sweden, and the joint venture with Sweden’s Autoliv to start up a new company to develop autonomous driving software for third party clients. Both parts of the autonomous driving plan are expected to ramp up in 2017.

The deal with Uber will allow Volvo to cut development costs on the technology and testing of new technologies and could prove to be a money maker in the end. The companies are putting in a joint $300 million US into the project.