Uber, the ride-sharing tech company, in partnership with Volvo is expanding its self-driving pilot to San Francisco, California.
Uber will be making use of specially-converted self-driving premium Volvo XC90 SUVs.
Volvo and Uber signed an agreement in August 2016 to establish a jointly-owned project to build base vehicles that can be used to develop fully autonomous driverless cars.
Uber have added their own self-driving hardware and software package (most visibly in the roof-mounted control apparatus) to the Volvos that it bought that will be used in San Francisco.
These cars will drive around the streets of San Francisco autonomously, but as part of the pilot programme they will at all times have an Uber technician on board to supervise the car’s operation.
“The promise of self-driving ride sharing is becoming a reality,” says 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.”
The alliance with Uber forms one part of Volvo’s three-part plan to develop autonomous driving (AD) technologies.
In January 2017 it will begin a project entitled Drive Me, which will be the world’s largest autonomous driving test in which 100 AD cars will be given to members of the public to be driven on real roads around Gothenburg, Sweden. The feedback from these people will be used to advance the development of Volvo’s AD cars.
The second part is a joint venture with Autoliv, the leading automotive safety technology company, to set up a new jointly-owned company to design and manufacturer separately-branded AD and driver assistance software technology packages for sale to third party original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
The new company will have its headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden and is expected to start operations in the beginning of 2017.
The third part is the ongoing relationship with Uber to build and co-develop base vehicles for AD cars. This deal reduces Volvo’s developments costs, gives it a chance to develop cutting edge technology and could ultimately boost sales significantly.
The cars to be used in San Francisco are developed on Volvo Cars’ fully modular Scalable Product Architecture (SPA). SPA is one of the most advanced car architectures in the world and is currently used for Volvo Cars’ top-of-the-line, multiple award-winning XC90 SUV, as well as the S90 premium sedan and V90 premium estate.