Uber’s Self-Driving Volvo Program Will Hit The Streets Of San Francisco

Uber is expanding its use of fully autonomous Volvo XC90s from one side of the country to the other, with the launch of its self-driving pilot program in San Francisco.

It was only a matter of time, of course, that Silicon Valley-based Uber would launch its self-driving initiative closer to its home turf. Now it’s doing that with a raft of Volvos that will soon be seen threading through San Francisco using software developed by the ride sharing company.

Uber and Volvo Cars announced Wednesday the $300 million partnership launched in August in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania would extend to San Francisco as the next step in researching both self-driving technology for ride sharing programs and to further Volvo’s autonomous driving technologies.

Like the Pittsburgh pilot program, the XC90s will drive around autonomously, but have a human on board. The XC90s are most clearly identified by having rooftop-mounted hardware, which is controlled by Uber-developed software to pick up passengers and take them where they’ve requested to go through their app. The Uber-Volvo partnership is supposed to use work carried out by Volvo engineers on the XC90, as well as the S90 and V90 cars, to then be joined by Uber’s own self-driving software, officials said of the project in August.

But in something of a twist, Uber doesn’t appear to have a permit through the California Department of Motor Vehicles to test autonomous cars on public roads in the state, according to The New York Times, as other companies such as Google and Tesla have applied for. They don’t appear to be using any permits through Volvo, either, as that company’s involvement is limited to, “involvement is related to the engineering of the vehicle, not the test pilot,” Jim Nichols, Volvo Cars North America Product and Technology Communications Manager, said in an email Wednesday to Carscoops.

We’ve reached out to Uber for a comment.

Nevertheless, San Francisco should prove an interesting test for the project given its steep hills, older streets and a storm of trains, cyclists and pedestrians that regularly battle for space with cars.

Next month, Volvo will be launching its own autonomous driving pilot program in Gothenburg, Sweden with the DriveMe project, sending 100 cars out. It’s also working with supplier Autoliv to make a separate company to market software to third-party companies.


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