Uber will give away free rides in autonomous Volvos this month

But only in Pittsburgh, for now.

Volvo and Uber are collaborating on an autonomous car project. Both companies are investing $300 million in the project, which will yield a "base car" that each company can use for developing and implementing their own autonomous vehicle technologies.

The vehicle will use the Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) that underpins the current XC90, S90 and V90. According to Volvo, it will "include all needed safety, redundancy, and new features required to have autonomous vehicles on the road." So it sounds like the project will create a platform that establishes a standard level of autonomous systems so that it can quickly and effectively be applied to future vehicles. These jointly-developed cars will all be built by Volvo, which will then sell the cars to Uber.

The project already appears to be bearing fruit. Bloomberg reported that to start the project, the company has begun producing autonomous XC90s for Uber to use in a self-driving fleet. The first of these vehicles will go into use in Pittsburgh next month, where Uber users will be able to get free rides while accompanied by vehicle "supervisors" in the driver and front passenger seats. This is likely a legal issue and also an extra safety net in case something goes terribly wrong.

This is significant news, but it also isn't surprising. Both companies have been exploring self-driving technology, with Volvo even committing to sell an autonomous car by 2021. Volvo also was on the lookout for a partner with whom it could develop its self-driving technology, and Uber doesn't have the vehicle development resources of a major manufacturer. While this exact match-up may not have been inevitable, these companies were probably going to partner with someone eventually. In fact, Uber even purchased the self-driving commercial truck company Otto, according to Bloomberg.

Both Uber and Volvo have plenty to gain from a self-driving vehicle once it's developed. Uber will be able to operate its own fleet of self-driving cars and take in more money by eliminating the need for drivers. Volvo will have a player in the autonomous revolution game, which is a step toward its stated goal of no injuries or deaths in its cars by 2020.

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