Part of the arrangement that will bring self-driving Uber on-demand vehicles to Pittsburgh roads by the end of this year will also help Volvo bring its own self-driving cars, for use as either personal vehicles or as autonomous taxis, to market by 2021, according to the WSJ. The two companies are investing a combined $300 million, roughly split between the two, in a deal that will seek to achieve production of a road-ready autonomous car based on the XC90 SUV platform.
The arrangement reveals what Volvo gets out of the deal that will help Uber beat rivals including Google and Ford, who are planning driverless on-demand fleets, to commercial launch. Volvo’s investment and participation in the plan will likely benefit from Uber’s autonomous technology engineering expertise, which is built on the back of a team that includes the former head of Google’s self-driving car project, as well Twitter’s former VP of engineering, and which also includes a good chunk of Carnegie Mellon’s advanced robots department academics.
Volvo’s vision for the car still plans to have a driver behind the wheel, but also includes fully autonomous capabilities. The funds will be used to develop the hardware required, including sensor for object and collision avoidance, as well as fuelling research and software development. Volvo also hopes to start experimenting with self-driving car road tests in China, Britain and Sweden as a result of advances coming from the arrangement.
The deal also gives both companies freedom to continue to woo other partners in their pursuit of autonomous driving tech, according to Reuters, and also specifies that employees will generally operate within their own respective companies, rate than act as shared resources between the two.
2021 is shaping up to be a big year for self-driving vehicles, as earlier this week Ford announced its intent to also introduce autonomous cars at scale to the market by that time, intended for use primarily in driverless taxi fleets.