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Uber Buys 24,000 Volvo SUVs to Create Driverless Fleet

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Uber has bought 24,000 Volvo SUVs to start building its self-driving fleet.

Ride-hailing service Uber has struck a deal with  Volvo to purchase 24,000 XC90 SUVs between 2019 and 2021, with the aim to convert them into its driverless fleet, Bloomberg has revealed.

Each XC90 costs about £35,000 on the market, and the Financial Times pegged the value of the deal at around £1 billion.

Uber has already been using modified Volvo vehicles for its self-driving car technology trials.

Autonomous XC90—with human safety drivers still onboard— have been deployed in tests on the streets of San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and various locations in Arizona.

In the past, Swedish carmaker Volvo and the ride-hailing app have partnered and pooled money to jointly develop a vehicle with self-driving features, which Uber’s software could then augment to total autonomy.

Uber’s new vehicles will be fitted with more advanced technology than that currently in use on Uber’s driverless prototypes.

The SUVs will include redundant braking and steering systems, with the goal of getting rid of human backup drivers.

Uber is scaling up its driverless game in the wake of Alphabet-owned Waymo’s announcement that it will launch a completely self-driving cab service over the next few months.

For Uber—which is embroiled in a court battle with Waymo over allegedly stolen trade secrets— its rival’s breakthrough might have been a key spur to achieve full autonomy.

Apart from that, human drivers are still Uber’s main cost, and replacing them with a fleet of driverless vehicles would help it vastly improve its margins.

“This new agreement puts us on a path toward mass-produced, self-driving vehicles at scale,” Uber head of auto alliances Jeff Miller told Bloomberg. “The more people working on the problem, we’ll get there faster and with better, safer, more reliable systems.”

Image via Volvo

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