Volvo has won a contract to deliver tens-of-thousands of XC90 SUVs to Uber.
The cars will be modified for autonomous driving, with a delivery date some time between 2019 and 2021. Estimates from the Financial Times suggest the deal could be worth more than US$1.9 billion ($2.5 billion).
According to Uber, the key to its Volvo deal is flexibility. Current estimates for the order are around 24,000 but, as we all know, both ride-hailing and self-driving technology are young. The company will be able to ramp up order numbers if demand picks up rapidly, but won’t be left with a fleet of useless vehicles if things plateau.
The end goal for Uber is to have a fleet of self-driving vehicles roaming the streets, ideally as early as 2019. The controversial ride-sharing company made the papers earlier this year, after one of its XC90 test cars rolled onto its side.
Although a human-driven vehicle caused the crash, images of an Uber-branded car on its side were a bad look nonetheless. Video of an Uber rolling through a red light had already been widely shared, prompting Californian regulators to order them off the road.
Testing has since resumed, but a lawsuit alleging Uber stole designs, patents and other information from Waymo has also cast a shadow on the program.