Something important might be missing from your next Uber ride: your driver. Uber has just announced that it will purchase 24,000 SUVs from Volvo and outfit them with self-driving systems beginning in 2019. The fleet of Volvo XC90 SUVs will be the Swedish manufacturer’s biggest-ever order and will mark a new milestone as the autonomous vehicle industry’s largest sale so far. While self-driving vehicles are being developed and tested by companies worldwide, Uber’s purchase will pave the way for mass produced vehicles at scale.
While the vehicles remain unbuilt and Uber’s Advanced Technology Group is still in the process of perfecting the self-driving technology, Uber has already been spotted testing self-driving XC90s in Tempe, Arizona and Pittsburgh. Last year, Uber launched a fleet of 16 self-driving vehicles to service customers in San Francisco, but lack of proper permits and underdeveloped technology forced the ride-sharing company to quickly pull the cars off the streets.
The purchase comes on the heels of a slew of problems that Uber has been facing in the development of autonomous cars. Most recently, Uber is being sued by Waymo—formerly the Google self-driving car project—for $2.6 billion in damages for purportedly stealing trade secrets.
Although there have been a few bumps in the road, Uber has positioned itself well ahead of many of its competitors through strategic acquisitions and partnerships. Uber has recently purchased the self-driving truck start-up, Otto, in a deal that included the firm’s proprietary autonomous technology.
This is not the first time that Uber has partnered with Volvo to advance the development of self-driving cars. Just last year, the two companies joined forces to the tune of a $300 million deal which would enable them to collaborate on designing vehicles “from scratch” specifically for self-driving use.