Volvo, in cooperation with Uber, have taken the first step toward a fully autonomous vehicle … production.
“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.”
The two have over the past couple years presented various fully autonomous concepts and prototypes, but this is the first production vehicle — an XC90 loaded up with Uber’s self-driving technology. It should be noted that fully autonomous cars are not yet allowed to operate unrestricted in any jurisdiction, partly because the infrastructure is not widespread enough to enable driving without any driver intervention (a Mission Specialist, in Uber-speak).
The XC90 is equipped with key safety features, most notably back-up systems for both steering and braking, as well as battery back-up power. The back systems main function is to take over in the event of autonomous systems failure and pull the car over to a complete stop. The Volvo is also equipped with an array of sensors built in to seamlessly integrate with Uber’s self-driving system.
“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 its commitment to safety, which is the cornerstone of its 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.”
The ultimate goal is to grant the ability for riders to someday call an Uber and have it show up at the door without a Mission Specialist (the specially trained overseers of the autonomous driving system, ready to take over control of the vehicle when needed).
The car is a step toward Volvo’s plans to introduce full-autonomy capability in the next generation of vehicles early in the 2020s, which will be able to operate without driver involvement in designated areas such as highways and ring-roads.