Volvo and Uber reveal production-ready autonomous vehicle

Volvo and Uber have revealed a production-ready version of the self-driving vehicle they have been working on since 2016.

The Swedish car manufacturer tied up with the leading ride-hailing app in an attempt to accelerate both companies’ autonomous driving systems. Several prototypes have been developed, but this is the first time they have considered a car ready for production.

The vehicle is based on a Volvo XC90, with Uber’s self-driving system fitted. This includes sensors on top and built into the vehicle that work with technology already fitted to the SUV to allow the car to drive itself. Volvo has incorporated back-up systems for the steering and brakes to create fail-safes in case something goes wrong.

Volvo says the vehicle demonstrates part of the commercial agreement with Uber that it would deliver “tens of thousands of autonomous drive-ready base cars in coming years”.

Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive of Volvo Cars, said: “We believe autonomous drive technology will allow us to further improve safety, the foundation of our company.

“By the middle of the next decade, we expect one-third of all cars we sell to be fully autonomous. Our agreement with Uber underlines our ambition to be the supplier of choice to the world’s leading ride-hailing companies.”

Eric Meyhofer, chief executive of Uber Advanced Technologies Group, said: “Working in close co-operation with companies like Volvo is a key ingredient to effectively building a safe, scalable, self-driving fleet.

“Volvo has long been known for their commitment to safety, which is the cornerstone of their newest production-ready self-driving base vehicle. When paired with our self-driving technology, this vehicle will be a key ingredient in Uber’s autonomous product suite.”

Uber’s self-driving technology programme hasn’t been without its controversies, though. In March 2018, a Volvo XC90 that was test-driving itself in Tempe, Arizona, hit and killed Elaine Herzberg as she crossed an unlit section of road with her bicycle – the first recorded case of a pedestrian’s death involving a self-driving car.

The vehicle’s legally required back-up driver, Rafaela Vasquez, wasn’t paying attention at the time of the impact. Police records indicate she was watching television on her mobile phone immediately before the crash, but she has never been convicted of a crime despite local police recommending a charge of manslaughter.

Prosecutors concluded that Uber was not criminally responsible for the crash.