Volvo Cars and ride-hailing firm Uber have presented a jointly developed production car capable of driving by itself.
Uber and Volvo Cars entered a joint engineering agreement in 2016 and have since developed several prototypes aimed at accelerating both companies’ self-driving ambitions.
The Volvo XC90 sports-utility vehicle unveiled on Wednesday enables the possible future deployment of self-driving cars in Uber’s network as an autonomous ridesharing service.
The most important features of the autonomous drive-ready production vehicle include several back-up systems for both steering and braking functions, as well as battery back-up power.
If any of the primary systems should fail for some reason, the back-up systems are designed to immediately act to bring the car to a stop.
In addition to Volvo’s built-in back-up systems, an array of sensors atop and inside the vehicle are designed for Uber’s self-driving system to safely operate and manoeuvre in an urban environment.
The autonomous-drive-capable production vehicle is part of Volvo Cars’ 2016 commercial agreement with Uber for the delivery of tens of thousands of autonomous-drive-ready base cars in coming years.
“We believe autonomous drive technology will allow us to further improve safety – the foundation of our company,” said Volvo Cars president and CEO Håkan Samuelsson.
“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.”
“Working in close cooperation with companies like Volvo is a key ingredient to effectively building a safe, scalable, self-driving fleet,”
added Uber Advanced Technologies Group CEO Eric Meyhofer.
“Volvo has long been known for their commitment to safety, which is the cornerstone of their newest production-ready self-driving base vehicle.”
Volvo Cars plans to use an autonomous base vehicle concept, similar to the one unveiled on Wednesday, for the introduction of its autonomous drive cars in the early 2020s.
The technology to be introduced will include features designed to enable unsupervised autonomous driving in clearly designated areas such as highways and ring roads.
Volvo Cars believes autonomous driving can generate significant potential road safety benefits for society as a whole when all cars are autonomous. Until that moment, however, the technology can offer customers a better driving experience by taking away mundane tasks such as stop-start driving in traffic jams.
Volvo Car South Africa MD Greg Maruszewski notes that the advent of Volvo Cars' autonomous-drive-ready production vehicle bodes well for road safety in South Africa in the future.
“Whilst we don’t expect to see these vehicles on our roads in the short term, when they do arrive, they can only serve to have a positive effect on road safety for people travelling in and around the car.”
* The Volvo self-driving cars are currently watched over by so-called Mission Specialists – specially trained Uber employees operating and overseeing the car in areas designated and suitable for autonomous drive.