Volvo and Uber are teaming up to make Uber’s robotaxi program a reality, with Volvo this week agreeing to sell up to 24,000 cars to the ride-sharing giant.
The base model Volvo XC90 is going to be the vehicle of choice for the robotaxi program, as the SPA platform in which the XC90 is built on is easily compatible with Uber’s autonomous technology foundation. Furthermore, the XC90s will already come equipped with core self-driving technologies that are in sync with the direction Uber intends to take with its own version of self-driving features.
The deal is expected to run from 2019 till 2021 and the vehicles will strictly be for use in the U.S. – though specific regions and cities where the program will be implemented have not yet been disclosed.
Volvo’s CEO, Hakan Samuelsson said in a statement, “Our aim is to be the supplier of choice for AD [autonomous driving] ride-sharing service providers globally. Today’s agreement with Uber is a primary example of that strategic direction.”
Volvo’s SPA architecture was the winning factor that convinced Uber that the automaker was the most logical step to take for this ambitious plan. Jeff Miller, head of automotive alliances for Uber said, “This was important because it was the most modern electrical architecture in the auto industry, which allowed us to integrate a lot of our systems within it in a more seamless fashion.”
“We wouldn’t be making the level of investment we are if we didn’t think it was going to be an important part of our business going forward,” Miller added.
This will be an equally collaborative project for both Volvo and Uber. Volvo is seeing this as an opportunity to reach its own personal goal of launching its own autonomous car by 2021. Samuelsson says, “Working together with Uber engineers is very beneficial for our engineers.”
Uber’s goal is to provide ride-sharing services on a larger scale and this program is a big step towards achieving that goal. Miller says, “The main message from us is that we are preparing to do self-driving vehicles at scale and Volvo is a key partner to enable us do that. We are making all the investments on the technical and manufacturing side to be able to do that.”
Despite a well-publicized accident earlier in March involving a self-driving Uber XC90 test vehicle, Volvo and Uber are still confident this venture will be successful for both parties. In our eye, this ambitious deal is a sign both companies are confident the venture will produce positive results.