A new Volvo 4×4, a variant of the XC90, will work with an Uber developed autonomous driving system, the two companies announced this week. Uber has already received delivery of a dozen prototypes of the latest XC90, and although the firm has not deployed them on public roads yet, it hopes to do so within the next few years.
The latest model is a hybrid, having both human controls such as steering wheels and brake pedals, but also including factory-installed systems designed for computer rather than human control. Among the most important features are its steering and braking backup functions and its battery backup power.
But what does the partnership mean for the two companies?
For Uber, restoring trust in safety has been at the forefront of recent projects, following a fatal collision in March 2018. For Volvo, the successful roll-out of its vehicles across the huge Uber fleet would make it a supplier to the world’s leading ride-hailing company, which would drive significant growth in terms of vehicle sales.
Uber stands to benefit from the ambitions of Volvo’s Chinese parent company, Geely, which is investing heavily in autonomous and hybrid technology, as well as in targeting overseas markets.
It is not just Uber and Volvo that are working hard to push out autonomous vehicles, with a number of other companies also ramping up efforts in recent years. Ford Motor Co is one example in the US. The company’s majority-owned autonomous vehicle subsidiary, Argo AI, launched its new fleet of self-driving test vehicles in Detroit on Wednesday, expanding its presence to five US cities.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ North American unit (FCA US) has also partnered with tech startup Aurora to develop autonomous platforms for commercial vans. According to Aurora, the collaboration will further expand the scope of the Aurora Driver, enabling the company to provide a range of solutions to strategic customers working in areas such as logistics and transit.
Automotive manufacturers have struggled in recent years to make profits, partly due to the rising costs of manufacturing electric, connected and autonomous vehicles. This has led to a number of new alliances and partnerships as companies look to stay ahead and improve efficiency.
Under the ownership of Geely, Volvo is at the forefront of autonomous vehicles and has cemented its position in the electric and autonomous vehicles markets, which the former has recognised as crucial in driving growth.
Geely recently opened a new research centre in Germany to enhance its R&D capacities for the “new propulsion systems and next-generation mobility technology”, indicating its efforts to gain a leading position in the market.