Gothenburg, Sweden - Volvo and Uber have unveiled the production version of their self-driving XC90, representing the next step in the strategic collaboration between the Swedish carmaker and the US ride hailing company.
The joint engineering agreement between the two firms dates back to 2016 and has resulted in several prototypes hitting the streets in various cities across the globe.
The XC90 presented on Wednesday is the first autonomous production car to use Uber’s self-driving system, and according to Volvo it paves the way for “the possible future deployment of self-driving cars in Uber’s network as an autonomous ridesharing service.”
An array of sensors, positioned on top of and within the vehicle, allow it to operate and manoeuvre in urban traffic.
The vehicle also has several back-up systems for the steering and braking, as well as battery back-up power. Should any of the primary systems fail, the back-up will bring the car to an immediate stop, Volvo claims.
For now, though, the vehicles will still need to have specially trained Uber employees, called Mission Specialists, behind the wheel to take over should anything go wrong.
However, both companies envision a day when these cabs will be able to operate without a person behind the wheel.
The Volvo-Uber project has not been without controversy, however.
In early 2018 one of the XC90 prototype vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian in the US, although a court later found that Uber was not criminally liable for the incident. Read more here.
Robot cars for South Africa?
Volvo Car SA Managing Director Greg Maruszewski believes that autonomous cars could one day make South African roads a lot safer than they are at present.
“Whilst we don’t expect to see these vehicles on our roads in the short term, when they do arrive, they can only serve to have a positive effect on road safety for people traveling in and around the car,” said Maruszewski, who also stressed that the current crop of Volvo models are already available with active safety technologies that can help to prevent accidents.