Uber’s self-drive pilot expands

Uber has expanded its self-driving pilot to San Francisco, California, using specially converted self-driving Volvo XC90 premium SUVs.

The move marks the next phase in a deepening alliance between Volvo and Uber after the two companies 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. These cars were initially tested in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The latest 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 promise of self-driving ride sharing is becoming a reality,’ said 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, Volvo 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, to set up a new jointly owned company to design and manufacture 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.