Volvo Cars and Uber have presented the first of its kind Volvo XC90 SUV that in combination with Uber’s self-driving system is capable of fully driving itself.
The announcement is a pivotal milestone in the joint engineering agreement first penned by both companies in 2016. In 2017, Volvo announced an agreement to sell as many as 24,000 autonomous driving compatible units of the XC90 to Uber in the US between 2019 and 2021.
The jointly-developed XC90 base vehicle is equipped with key safety features that allow Uber to easily tap into and install its own self-driving system, thereby enabling the possible future deployment of self-driving cars in Uber’s network as an autonomous ridesharing service.
The most important features of Volvo's autonomous XC90 is that it includes several back-up systems for both steering and braking functions as well as battery back-up power. If any of the primary driving systems should fail for some reason, the back-up systems of the XC90 are designed to immediately intervene and bring the car to a stop.
In addition to Volvo’s built-in back-up systems, an array of sensors atop and built into the vehicle are designed for Uber’s self-driving system to safely operate and maneuver in an urban environment.
When paired with Volvo’s vehicle platform, Uber’s self-driving system may one day allow for safe, reliable autonomous ridesharing without the need for a driver (called a Mission Specialist by Uber) to operate and oversee the car in areas designated for autonomous driving.
Volvo plans to use a similar autonomous base vehicle concept for the introduction of its future autonomous vehicles in the early 2020s. These technologies, to be introduced on the next generation of Volvo models based on the SPA2 vehicle architecture, will include features designed to enable unsupervised autonomous drive in clearly designated areas such as highways and ring roads.
These systems are not going to replace the human driver just yet, but Volvo believes autonomous driving can generate significant potential road safety benefits when all cars are autonomous. Until that time, technology in the interim can offer customers an easier driving experience by taking away mundane tasks such as stop-start driving in traffic jams.