A Volvo XC90 featuring Uber self-driving technology ran a red light on its first day of testing on 16 December. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has responded quickly by banning the use of the test vehicles on public roads. Whether the authorities in San Francisco were aware that Uber had even rolled out self-driving cars in its ride-hailing fleet is unclear but the incident certainly prompted the DMV to react. The self-driving test cars are banned until official permission has been granted and if Uber does not comply, legal action has been threatened.
The affected vehicles were sold by Volvo to Uber, which then retrofits them with its proprietary self-driving hardware and software. The cars operate in fully autonomous mode but an Uber technician is in the driving seat at all times and ride-hailing customers have the option to refuse travelling in the autonomous cars and can demand driver-operated vehicles.
The Volvo cars form the basis for a joint $300m (€287m) project between Volvo and Uber, which saves both parties development costs as they pursue their autonomous strategies. This tie-in is only one part of Volvo’s three-pronged approach. In another venture, Volvo is collaborating with Swedish supplier Autoliv to develop autonomous and driver-assistance technology. Volvo has already outlined that self-driving technology will be a $10,000 option on its cars but the plan is also to market the technology to other OEMs. The third part of Volvo’s autonomous push is the Drive Me project, which involves handing over 100 self-driving cars to members of the public. The vehicles will be driven around Gothenburg, Sweden and the consumer experiences will feed into Volvo’s autonomous development plans.
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