This week, Uber Advanced Technologies Group (ATG) revealed its new self-driving vehicle, Volvo XC90, at its annual conference in Washington DC.

“We are one step closer to thousands of autonomous, drive-ready production cars in the coming years.”

Uber ATG has partnered with Volvo since September 2016 to develop several self-driving car prototypes. The car was unveiled at this year’s Uber Elevate Summit. It is the third vehicle the companies have developed in partnership. Uber said the XC90 luxury SUVs will be built by Volvo Cars in Sweden.

“Working in close partnership with companies like Volvo Cars is key to effectively building a safe and scalable self-driving network,” the company wrote in a blog post. “With the introduction of this vehicle into Uber ATG’s fleet, we are one step closer to thousands of autonomous, drive-ready production cars in the coming years.”

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The new XC90 has a steering and braking system with redundant protection mechanism, meaning if any of the primary systems fail, the backup systems immediately act to bring the car safely to a stop. The new car also features an interior wide-angle camera that can be used to locate items lost during a ride, and are equipped with automatically-closing doors to ensure safe departures.

An Uber spokeswoman said the company plans “to work with Volvo on tens of thousands of vehicles in the future.”
The rideshare company has received about a dozen prototypes of the new vehicle but has not yet implemented them on public roads. Uber stated that its “self-driving system will one day allow for safe, reliable autonomous ridesharing without the need” for a safety driver.

“It’s very important that safety comes first, and then we will go into self-driving mode when we believe is the time to do it.”

In early 2018, the first pedestrian fatality involving an autonomous car collision occurred in Arizona with one of Uber’s XC90 test vehicles. Earlier this year, Rachel Urtasun, who heads up Uber ATG, told BetaKit the advanced technologies arm of the global ridesharing company is focusing on making safety a top priority.

“The fact that there’s a change in policy is not going to change our timelines. For us, it’s very important that safety comes first, and then we will go into self-driving mode when we believe is the time to do it,” Urtasun said in January. “But it’s great to see that steps forward have been made such that when we are ready, we are ready.”

She said the company’s developers use reasoning and uncertainty to help the AI analyze complex situations that arise in traffic. She also noted that the car’s artificial intelligence technology allows it to drive for long distances on highways and navigate construction zones.

According to Reuters, Volva said it will use a similar autonomous base vehicle concept for its first commercially-available autonomous driving technology in the early 2020s. The new car will be deployed for autonomous ridesharing in small, pre-determined areas of cities ATG operates in.

Image courtesy Uber ATG

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