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Uber Will Debut its Autonomous Volvo XC90 in Pittsburgh

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Volvo Cars and Uber join forces to develop autonomous driving cars

Uber made a calculated PR move choosing an automaker known for its safety in order to advance its driverless tech

When it comes to autonomous driving, much of the conversation lately has revolved around Tesla’s autopilot technology, which has been at the center of quite a bit of controversy. However, that negative publicity hasn’t stopped Uber from completing a deal with Swedish automaker Volvo that is sure to speed up the development of its own driverless tech.

In the deal, Uber and Volvo combined to contribute approximately $300 million to the project. Volvo will be creating a new base vehicle that it will sell to Uber. The ride-sharing company will then equip its own driverless technology on the vehicle, which includes equipment such as radar, lidar, and multiple cameras.

The new base vehicle will be produced using Volvo’s new fully modular Scalable Product Architecture (SPA). This platform is said to be one of the main reasons that Uber decided to partner with Volvo, as the SPA platform was designed from the start to be able use the latest autonomous driving technologies.

“Volvo is a world leader in the development of active safety and autonomous drive technology and possesses an unrivaled safety credibility,” said Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive of Volvo Cars. “We are very proud to be the partner of choice for Uber, one of the world’s leading technology companies. This alliance places Volvo at the heart of the current technological revolution in the automotive industry.”

Uber is reportedly so far along in its development of its driverless tech that it plans to use a customized Volvo XC90 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, later in 2016. Uber will offer free rides to people in the downtown area, but an Uber engineer will be sitting in the front seat of each custom XC90 in order to watch how well the technology works in a real-world environment. Passengers will be instructed not to speak with the driver because the plan is to eventually phase the engineer and any potential driver out of the equation.

If Uber does end up using fully autonomous cars in the future, that could mean that more than 1 million Uber drivers could lose their jobs.

In addition to creating a new base vehicle for Uber, Volvo will also be using the same car to advance its own driverless technology, which the automaker believes will increase the safety of its vehicles.

“Over one million people die in car accidents every year. These are tragedies that self-driving technology can help solve, but we can’t do this alone,” said Travis Kalanick, Uber’s chief executive. “That’s why our partnership with a great manufacturer like Volvo is so important. Volvo is a leader in vehicle development and best-in-class when it comes to safety. By combining the capabilities of Uber and Volvo we will get to the future faster, together.”

Video: Uber to Launch Self-Driving Car Service in Pittsburgh