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Uber has presented the latest member of its self driving car fleet at its annual Elevate conference.
The self-driving Volvo XC90 SUV is the first Uber vehicle designed without the need for a driver. The autonomous car was designed in collaboration with Swedish carmaker, Volvo.
Uber’s self-driving car program was suspended in 2018 after an autonomous car, under human supervision hit and killed a pedestrian in Arizona.
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The program is back in operation and Uber says that the new generation of self-driving cars will be hitting the roads in higher numbers from 2020. Currently, they are only being tested on public roads in Pittsburgh.
Volvo and Uber strike in robo-taxi war
"What it looks like from the outside isn't much different, but what's going on inside enables us to run our full autonomy system — things like 360 degrees of camera coverage, 360 degrees of LiDAR and radar," Uber ATG CEO Eric Meyhofer said at the Elevate Summit.
"These give the vehicle everything it needs in order to operate autonomously."
Uber will take the XC90 base vehicle and equip it with its own self-driving system, enabling the possible future deployment of self-driving cars in Uber’s network as an autonomous ridesharing service.
An important feature of the XC90 is its comprehensive backup systems for both steering and braking function. The battery system is also equipped with a back up that ensures that the car can come to a safe and complete stop immediately, if any of the primary systems fail.
Volvo on board for safer roads
“We believe autonomous drive technology will allow us to further improve safety, the foundation of our company,” said Håkan Samuelsson, President and Chief Executive Officer of Volvo Cars.
“By the middle of the next decade we expect one-third of all the cars we sell to be fully autonomous. Our agreement with Uber underlines our ambition to be the supplier of choice to the world’s leading ride-hailing companies.”
Volvo and Uber entered a partnership in 2016 and in 2017. Volvo signed a ‘framework’ agreement with Uber to sell a fleet of cars between 2019 and 2021.
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“Working in close cooperation with companies like Volvo is a key ingredient to effectively building a safe, scalable, self-driving fleet,” said Eric Meyhofer, CEO of Uber Advanced Technologies Group.
“Volvo has long been known for their commitment to safety, which is the cornerstone of their newest production-ready self-driving base vehicle. When paired with our self-driving technology, this vehicle will be a key ingredient in Uber’s autonomous product suite.”
Uber is pushing for a driver free future as one way for the company to become financially viable. The race is on for who will be able to launch an effective ‘robo taxi’ fleet first.
Waymo, another autonomous vehicle development company is testing heavily, despite a lot of push back from local communities.