Uber, the ride-sharing technology company, is expanding its self-driving pilot to San Francisco, California, using specially-converted self-driving Volvo XC90 premium SUV’s.
The cars to be used in San Francisco have been built by Volvo and sold to Uber, after which Uber’s own self-driving hardware and software package has been added, most visibly in the roof-mounted control apparatus. 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 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 up to 100 AD cars will be given to members of the public to be driven on real roads around Gothenburg, Sweden. Their experiences will be used to co-develop 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 OEMs.
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 base vehicles are manufactured by Volvo and then purchased from Volvo by Uber. Volvo Cars and Uber are contributing a combined USD300m to the project. Both Uber and Volvo will use the same base vehicle for the next stage of their own autonomous car strategies.
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 on Volvo Cars’ top-of-the-line multiple award winning XC90 SUV, as well as the S90 premium sedan and V90 premium estate.