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Volvo and Uber ally for autonomous driving

Look ma, no hands: Volvo will build a new fully autonomous vehicle on its Scalable Product Architecture with Uber contributing the self-driving technologies it has developed and gained through acquisitions.

Ride-sharing start-up Uber and Swedish car-maker Volvo to develop self-driving cars

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Volvo logo19 Aug 2016

VOLVO Cars and Uber have announced an alliance that will combine the former’s car-making expertise and the latter’s technological savvy to produce a next-generation fully autonomous self-driving vehicle.

The new car will be built by Volvo on its modular Scalable Product Architecture (SPA), which already forms the underpinnings of its XC90 luxury SUV, S90 large sedan and V90 wagon, with Uber set to contribute its own self-developed autonomous technology, including radar, camera and laser sensors.

The platform was designed from inception to incorporate autonomous drive technologies, electrified and hybrid powertrains and connectivity solutions, which is what attracted Uber to Volvo.

Volvo cars president and chief executive Hakan Samuelsson said the pairing would allow both companies to push into the future of automotive travel.

“We are very proud to be the partner of choice for Uber, one of the world’s leading technology companies,” he said. “This alliance places Volvo at the heart of the current technological revolution in the automotive industry.

“Volvo is one of the most progressive and contemporary car-makers in the world. It is a world leader in the development of active safety and autonomous drive technology, and possesses an unrivalled safety credibility.” Uber co-founder and chief executive Travis Kalanick echoed Mr Samuelsson’s comments and added that the development of autonomous vehicles would help make roads safer.

“Over one million people die in car accidents every year,” he said. “These are tragedies that self-driving technology can help solve, but we can’t do this alone. That’s why our partnership with a great manufacturer like Volvo is so important.

“Volvo has consistently been a leader when it comes to safety. And partnership is crucial to our self-driving strategy because Uber has no experience making cars.

“By combining the capabilities of Uber and Volvo we will get to the future faster, together.” The partnership will see both companies contributing a combined total of $US300 million to develop the future model.

The announcement of the new partnership also coincides with Uber’s acquisition of Otto, a US-based start-up specialising in retrofitting existing trucks with self-driving technologies.

Mr Kalanick said Otto co-founder Anthony Levandowski will spearhead Uber’s self-driving efforts and called him “one of the world’s leading autonomous engineers” and that “together, we now have one of the strongest autonomous engineering groups in the world”.

Although just announced, a report in Bloomberg Businessweek has indicated that Uber will begin trialling autonomous Volvos in Pittsburgh later this month.

While a person will be behind the driver’s seat at all times, Uber customers may be picked up in an XC90 equipped with exterior cameras, lasers and radar to navigate city streets.

According to the report, Uber’s deal with Volvo is not exclusive and could see the ride-sharing giant partner with other vehicle manufacturers to “replace Uber’s more than one million human drivers with robot drivers – as quickly as possible”.

Earlier this week, Ford announced plans to deliver autonomous cars for ride-sharing use by 2021 after a substantial investment in tech start-ups and Tesla Motors currently has its Autopilot semi-autonomous driving software suite available to customers, albeit the program is still in Beta phase.

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