The race to develop ride-sharing, self-driving vehicles just heated up

Volvo and Uber aren’t messing around with their partnership. The two companies initially signed a strategic agreement in 2016 that included Volvo supplying Uber with a fleet of XC90 SUVs. Now, Uber’s taking it to a whole new level by ordering 24,000 units from the Swedish automaker between 2019 and 2021. No mention was made on which Volvo models Uber is getting, but all units will come with autonomous driving technology.

A sign of things to come?

2016 Volvo XC90
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It really isn’t so much about the Volvo-Uber partnership itself; it’s about the sheer size of the reported order

It’s impossible to understate the significance of this development in the Volvo-Uber partnership. This is big news if it does happen because it could set a precedent for tech companies who are looking to gain entry into the world of autonomous driving.

It really isn’t so much about the Volvo-Uber partnership itself; it’s about the sheer size of the reported order. If that 24,000-unit number reported by Reuters is accurate, it would be the largest order of its kind from a tech company. The order is large enough that if it decides to take that direction, Uber would have access to a large enough fleet that will allow it to get its commercial autonomous ride sharing program off the ground. That’s always been one of the end goals for tech firms like Uber who are investing millions upon millions of dollars on a business that has the potential to reinvent the whole public transportation sphere.

There’s been no confirmation on either Volvo or Uber’s side on what kind of models are included in the order. The Swedish automaker did say that every one of them will be based on its Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) platform, essentially narrowing the field down to the S90 sedan, V90 wagon, and XC60, XC90 SUVs.

The time is now for Uber and Volvo

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Uber’s massive order of Volvo vehicles is just one example of how competitive this business has become

Take a look at the budding landscape of the autonomous driving segment. Automakers and tech companies from all over the world are doing something related to this promising field. It would take time to list down all the automakers that are currently developing autonomous driving tech, but it says a lot for the field’s potential that tech giants like Apple and Google, as well as ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, all have made huge investments in this space.

Uber’s massive order of Volvo vehicles is just one example of how competitive this business has become. It’s even turned messy on some fronts. Uber itself is embroiled in a legal battle with Waymo, the old Google self-driving car project that’s been spun off Google parent firm Alphabet Inc. to become its own autonomous car development company. Even in its own sphere, Uber is facing stiffer competition from Lyft, which has its own partnership with Waymo.

If this massive order of Volvo vehicles does come to fruition, expect more deals of its kind to happen in the future, especially when it comes to tech firms who aren’t keen on dealing with the heavy costs that come with developing their own vehicles. These companies are focused on developing the technology. Once that tech is up-and-running, the easiest route to use it is to rely on existing automakers that already have fleets of vehicles that are ready to act as hosts for the technology. That’s what this Volvo - Uber partnership is all about, and if it comes to a point where autonomous driving technology becomes a real and sustainable system, more partnerships of this kind will come to life.

References

Volvo XC90

2016 Volvo XC90 High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2017 Volvo XC90.

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Source: Bloomberg

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