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article imageDriverless cars - A team effort for Volvo and Uber in Pittsburgh

By Karen Graham     Aug 18, 2016 in Technology
Self-driving vehicle technology got a big boost this week when in was announced that Volvo Car Group has formed an alliance with Uber on developing self-driving cars, with Uber bringing 100 of them to Pittsburgh later this month.
The Volvo-Uber alliance was a surprise to many but is not totally unexpected. While car manufacturers have been working on autonomous driving technology for some time now, some very big players, like Google, Uber, and even Tesla, the new boys on the block, have also been busy.
Now, it seems that Uber, a multinational online transportation network based in San Francisco, has taken a giant lead, not only by teaming up with Volvo but by announcing that later this month, Uber customers in downtown Pittsburgh can call for a self-driving car from their cell phones, reports Reuters.
The $300 million alliance will allow Volvo, a Swedish-based carmaker, owned by China-based Geely, to pool resources with the ride-sharing Uber. The investment will be shared equally between the two companies. They have agreed to further develop self-driving capabilities using Volvo's flagship XC90 SUV model.
And the XC90 SUV is the vehicle customers in Pittsburgh will be hailing on their cell phone Apps. Gizmodo quoted Uber CEO Travis Kalanick who revealed that the driverless cars would come complete with “dozens of sensors that use cameras, lasers, radar and GPS receivers.”
The fleet of 100 driverless cars will actually have someone sitting behind the steering wheel, sort of riding shotgun, for now, anyway. They will be there just to make sure the car doesn't do anything too terribly stupid, and to take over in situations where Uber's semi-autonomous technology isn't as yet totally reliable.
And another interesting bit of news — Pittsburgh customers will be sent a driverless car at random, and the ride will be free, for now, so they won't have to pay the $1.30 per mile. 24/7 Wall Street reports that Kalanick says that “prices will fall so low that the per-mile cost of travel, even for long trips in rural areas, will be cheaper in a driverless Uber than in a private car.”
The team effort has its pros and cons
Volvo and Uber's partnership is not the only one to watch out for. Ford Motors announced this week it would have a fleet of autonomous cars on the highway by 2021, and they may sell their fleet to ride-sharing companies. Toyota is investing an undisclosed sum in Uber, and Volkswagen has said it plans on investing in Gett, a ride-hailing company. General Motors has already taken in Uber's rival, Lyft.
But as Bloomberg notes, this is the first time a fleet of driverless cars will be put into the hands of customers, and the biggest issue with that move will be safety. Autonomous driving technology also has to earn the trust of the public, and that trust will only be gained through educating the public, especially to the technology's limitations.
More about Volvo, Uber, selfdriving vehicles, XC90 SUV model, Pittsburg
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