Despite an ongoing lawsuit with Alphabet’s GOOGL Waymo and the departure of one of its senior autonomous driving engineers earlier this year, Uber has made a huge step forward in its own quest to create a self-driving car future.
Partnering with Swedish manufacturer Volvo VLVLY, the ride-hailing giant is planning on buying up to 24,000 vehicles from the automaker that would serve as Uber’s self-driving taxi fleet. The deal is a non-exclusive agreement that would run from 2019 to 2021, and would provide Uber with Volvo’s flagship XC90 SUVs equipped with autonomous technology.
Jeff Miller, head of auto alliances at Uber, said that this agreement puts Uber on a “path towards mass produced self-driving vehicles at scale,” according to a statement.
This is not Uber’s first partnership with Volvo. The two companies have been working together for awhile now to bring self-driving technology to the road. In Pittsburgh and Tempe, Arizona, Uber has been testing a self-driving Volvo prototype for a little over a year now, with safety drivers in the front seat ready to intervene if the program fails or stalls.
Uber has also been testing self-driving Ford F Fusions in Pittsburgh, and actually offered passengers rides in these vehicles.
These some 24,000 cars have yet to be built, and the self-driving system that would be implemented is still under development by Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group; this group focuses on self-driving advancement, vehicle safety, and mapping. No financial details of the purchase were disclosed.
Of course, Uber is not the only ride-sharing company making headway in the self-driving car industry. Its primary rival, Lyft, just struck a research agreement with Waymo this year, as well as secured deals with Ford, Nutonomy, and Silicon Valley startup Drive.ai to incorporate self-driving cars into its growing fleet. Additionally, Lyft set up a separate unit this summer to develop autonomous vehicle technology.
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