Uber Advanced Technologies Group (ATG) and Volvo Cars first partnered to develop autonomous vehicles in September 2016. Today the two companies announced a production self-driving Volvo XC90 at the Uber Elevate Summit in Washington, D.C.

The Volvo XC90 SUV shown on Wednesday is the “first production car that in combination with Uber’s self-driving system is capable of fully driving itself,” Volvo said in a press release.

This Volvo XC90 is ready to (self) roll right out of the box

The safety features already built into the standard XC90 gave Uber a ready-made platform work with. The SUV was jointly designed by Uber and Volvo, with a “chassis ready to integrate Uber ATG’s self-driving system direct from the factory,” Uber ATG said on its Medium page. This new XC90 is the third car developed by the two companies. They have had a commercial agreement since 2016 for the delivery of tens of thousands of autonomous vehicles.

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The XC90 has backup systems for the steering, brakes, and battery. If the primary systems fail, the backups bring the vehicle to a stop. Sensors on the roof allow the car to operate in busy urban areas.

The safety features already built into the standard XC90 gave Uber a ready-made platform work with

These self-driving XC90s will be assembled by Volvo in Sweden. The SUVs have the usual human-controlled steering wheels and pedals in addition to computer controls.

Uber currently deploys a trained employee known as a “Mission Specialist” to ride in its self-driving cars and oversee their operation in designated areas. Uber and Volvo hope to eliminate the need for this position in the future. The process will start in even smaller areas zoned for truly driverless vehicles.

“We believe autonomous drive technology will allow us to further improve safety, the foundation of our company,” Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive of Volvo Cars, said. “By the middle of the next decade we expect one-third of all 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.”

Uber wants to enhance the rider experience along with the new technology. The passenger area contains a large touchscreen display, giving riders access to more information and features. You can adjust the temperature and view trip details and safety functions.

“Working in close cooperation with companies like Volvo is a key ingredient to effectively building a safe, scalable, self-driving fleet,” Eric Meyhofer, CEO of Uber ATG said. “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.”

Volvo will integrate the technologies it developed with Uber into its own production cars in the early 2020s. Volvo’s SPA2 vehicle architecture will allow for autonomous driving in areas such as highways.

Tragedies and setbacks

Safety is the chief concern when new technologies hit the street. In March 2018 a Volvo XC90 test vehicle killed Elaine Herzberg while she crossed a street at night on foot. This was the first recorded incident of a pedestrian fatality involving a self-driving vehicle in the U.S. The state of Arizona suspended Uber’s self-driving program and the company withdrew its self-driving vehicles from all test sites for nine months.

Uber settled with the victim’s family for an undisclosed sum shortly after her death. The ridesharing giant resumed limited self-driving operations in Pittsburgh last December. More safeguards were put in place and development continues as more data is gathered.

Prosecutors in Arizona found “no basis for criminal liability” against Uber in March, as seen in a letter posted by 12 News’ Bianca Buono.

You can’t stop progress, but here at NewYorKars we’re more than happy to drive our own vehicles.

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