Uber has been investing heavily in developing the worlds first commercially viable self-driving car and adding it to its fleet as a solution for ridesharing issues. They claim that they expect to have their cars ready by 2019.
In order to be in this new race for road superiority, Volvo has joined Uber and will supply them between 2019 and 2021 with thousands of luxury SUV's (XC90) which will incorporate the companies redundancy, safety and core autonomous driving technologies together with Uber's self-driving technologies to create a mega fleet of autonomous taxi's.
Uber's head of auto alliances, Jeff Miller told the press that the new agreement gives Uber a large head start and promises a fleet of "mass produced self-driving vehicles at scale."
The fleet will reach approximately 24,000 vehicles according to the Wall Street Journal, while Uber stated that the exact number is not yet defined and that 24,000 is a general framework number, and the size of the fleet will be on a large scale.
Volvo is synonymous with safety and conservative driving, which sits well with Uber's latest campaign to change its image from the bad boy to a good clean family service.
With all this good news, it's important to remember that Uber only recently finished massive internal restructuring after having sexual harassment charges filed against some of the executives. Also, the fall out with Google and Alphabet over the Waymo industrial espionage fiasco has yet to conclude. The latest stage in the Waymo case is Jury selection this month. According to Waymo, Uber stole important information from them regarding their laser-based sensing system which according to Waymo, was taken unlawfully by Anthony Levandowski, the founder of Otto a driverless trucking technology system when he downloaded thousands of documents onto a portable USB drive.
The new Volvo deal is a feather under new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi's hat; Uber needed something major to help show investors and the public that Uber is now a company to trust. Especially after the old executive was removed, including the removal of the founder Travis Kalanick from managing the company into the ground with his brash and irresponsible style.
At the moment, Uber has to survive reaching an IPO set in 2019. The company has an estimated market value of $70 billion, and any good news will contribute to strengthening the companies image. Volvo stated that the "framework agreement" is non-exclusive and Volvo intends to develop its own driverless cars. Volvo was bought out by Chinese car manufactures Geely Holdings back in 2010 and intends to roll out its own autonomous car in 2021. Volvo also intends to import a Chinese technology-laden vehicle using the brand Lynk & co. into US-based Volvo showrooms in 2019, and just for interest, Geely has many technology partnerships within mainland China.
Uber and Daimler also signed an autonomous car partnership deal earlier this year but did not discuss vehicle purchasing numbers. Uber also has Ford partnership in motion in Pittsburgh and has been running a test with an autonomous car for over a year, although the cars are only on the streets for test purposes, so a driver and engineer are present in the front at all times.
Ford has a similar test going on with Lyft, and Lyft has deals signed with General Motors and Waymo. Waymo basically moved over to Lyft after the rift with Uber and General Motors is one of Lyfts main investors.
It's obvious to see that there are no real loyalties in the car business Everyone is out for themselves and the race is constantly on between all makes and brands with major names owned by one or two global concerns.
No one really knows how far the technology has gone, and at what stage they really are. Although both Volvo and ford state that they will be road ready with their autonomous cars by 2021, Uber is keeping its cards close to its chest and not promising anything.
One of the major issue with autonomous cars is how they read the road, in other words, it's not just a matter of being aware of other objects, it's able to perceive what the other object is about to do. Something a human driver constantly considers when driving. For instance, in March of 2017, an Uber autonomous car, even with a driver behind the wheels, but not steering the car at the time of the accident, was hit by a car that did not yield at an intersection. Autonomous cars will only really work once 100% of all cars are autonomous and aware of each other on a network grid. So long as humans interface on the same grid of roads, anything can happen.
One Princeton Professor Alain Kornhauser, an autonomous vehicle expert, stated that he believed that Uber was at the front of the pack,
An executive analyst at Autotrader, Michelle Krebs stated that she expects many more partnerships being formed during this tumultuous time, where technology and money are meeting under grand visionary direction.
To sum up; the Volvo XC90 SUV costs around $47,000 per vehicle. By partnering with Uber, Volvo has stated it is in the game, and it is going global. Uber has stated that it is going global with a strong, safe and comfortable car manufacturer.