Volvo has jumped to an early lead in the autonomous game with a new deal that it has signed with Uber to provide the ride-sharing app with 24,000 autonomous vehicles.

The three-year deal will help Uber supply its first robotaxi fleet. Volvo’s XC90s will have the core autonomous tech, to which Uber will add for its fleet needs.

The robotaxi fleet will launch in the US, but so far the companies are mum on which city (cities?) the program will launch in first, though it did promise that the launch is close.

“It is sooner than most people think,” Jeff Miller, Uber's head of automotive alliances, told Automotive News Europe. "Our objective is to be able to operate them without anyone behind the wheel in select cities and environments. The more common definition of that is Level 4."

The sales agreement runs from 2019 to 2021, said Volvo.

“The automotive industry is being disrupted by technology and Volvo chooses to be an active part of that disruption,” said Hakan Samuelsson, Volvo CEO, in a statement. “Our aim is to be the supplier of choice for AD [autonomous driving] ride-sharing service providers globally. Today's agreement with Uber is a primary example of that strategic direction.”

The deal is by no means exclusive, though. Samuelsson has already expressed that his company would be open to providing “similar cars to all the ride-hailing companies.” He also pointed out that the autonomous tech isn’t limited to XC90s. The SPA architecture allows the same technology to be applied to the S90 sedan, the V90 wagon, and the XC60 crossover.

That said, the engineering has been helped along by Uber. The two have worked together over the past three years to develop this technology, so the partnership has been a productive one.

“The main message from us is that we are preparing to do self-driving vehicles at scale and Volvo is a key partner to enable us to do that,” said Miller. “We are making all of the investments on the technical and manufacturing side to be able to do that.”

[source:  Automotive News ]