Uber to buy 24,000 Driverless Volvos

Automologist MAC doesn’t like Volvo very much recently. Here’s why…  

Volvo, the boxy but good Swedish carmaker that is really Chinese-owned, has announced the signing of a ‘framework agreement’ with Uber, the self-titled ride-sharing company, to develop 24,000 autonomous-capable vehicles between 2019 and 2021. The Volvo XC90 is to become the base vehicle that will come fairly autonomous, and will be specially modified to be capable of having Uber’s self-developed and thus proprietary driverless bits and pieces bolted on, making the car fully autonomous.

Hakan Samuelsson, who is president and CEO of Volvo, hopes that this move will make Volvo the car of choice for driverless ride-sharing providers on a global basis. So, if you are a committed driver and really hate the idea of being ferried around in a robotic car, there has never been a better time to hate Volvo.

Uber and Volvo have been in partnership for just about three years in the States, but this purchase amounts to a massive change in direction for Uber, or any other ride-sharing wannabes. To date, all the ride-sharing companies have claimed to be technology or platform providers, but now they will actually be providing the vehicles and thus I wonder if the tax authorities will be taking another look at their business model.

If the full 24,000 vehicles are purchased by Uber, this will represent the biggest order in the history of the Swedish manufacturer, and certainly a feather in the cap for Geely, who bought out the ailing car manufacturer from GM in 2010. This announcement comes hot on the heels of developments over at Waymo (another ride-sharing technology provider and key competitor to Uber) who have begun testing their driverless cars in Arizona.

Of course, the holy grail of ride-share companies is to provide a taxi service that does not need a driver, thus reducing the cost of the service dramatically, not to mention the potential increase in efficiency gains…and not to mention the massive unemployment it will create.

I hate the idea of technology for the sake of it and personally will be a driver until someone pries my cold and very dead hands from the steering wheel, but there could be some advantages—on the occasion when I do have to take a taxi, not having to talk to a stranger about the weather or local politics or who they had in their cab this week would be a godsend.

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