This is going to be a big month for Volvo and Uber.
According to Bloomberg, the automaker and ride-sharing company will launch their first self-driving test fleet in downtown Pittsburgh this month. The vehicles are Volvo XC90s.
Now maybe initially this sounds like every other autonomous test project. But it’s not. This one has something extra to it that is a first in the industry.
For the first time, self-driving tests will involve customers who can summon autonomous cars from their phones. Customers will request cars through their Uber app, like normal. The difference is, they could randomly get a “driverless” car. That’s in quotes because in reality, the cars can’t be driverless. Someone has to still be sitting in the driver’s seat by law. Still, you get the picture. The SUVs are designed to drive themselves.
Uber chose Pittsburgh as its testing ground because that’s where its Advanced Technologies Research Center is located. It launched the center in 2015.
As for the vehicles – the Volvo XC90s are outfitted with everything you’re used to hearing about on autonomous vehicles by now. They’ll have dozens of sensors that use info from cameras, radar and GPS to make driving decisions. Volvo is expected to deliver 100 of the specially equipped SUVs to Uber by the end of the year.
This is all part of a $300 million dollar non-exclusive partnership between Volvo and Uber to develop fully autonomous cars by 2021.