Uber's massive Volvo order is a big self-driving step

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Under the agreement, Uber plans to purchase tens of thousands of self-driving Volvos once the technology is production-ready, putting the vehicles into its extensive ride-hailing network.

The non-exclusive agreement between Volvo and Uber follows last year's announcement of a strategic partnership between the two firms, which resulted in 100 autonomous XC90s being used by Uber in a driverless taxi trial in Pittsburgh, US.

"Our aim is to be the supplier of choice for autonomous driving ride-sharing service providers globally", said Volvo in a statement. These vehicles are expected to be delivered between 2019 and 2021.

"Everything we're doing right now is about building autonomous vehicles at scale", Jeff Miller, Uber's head of automotive alliances, said.

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And you never know; if the Uber you "hail" doesn't have a driver, it may actually turn up exactly where you want it to.

Under their pre-existing agreement, Uber already uses various customised Volvo vehicles - which include some of the carmaker's own self-drive hardware - and then adds on its own proprietary artificial intelligence technologies. San Francisco-based Uber will add its own sensors and software to permit pilot-less driving. Subsequently, Volvo will continue developing its own self-driving technology independent of Uber. It worked as a safety driver would sit in the front seat in an attempt to intervene if something goes wrong. At the same time, driver labor is the biggest cost to Uber's core ride-hailing service, and the company is banking on self-driving taxis to make the model more viable. The exact terms of the deal weren't initially disclosed, but an Uber spokesperson confirmed to Mashable via email that the fleet size will be around 24,000 vehicles.

The company has also been testing the self-driving prototype Volvo auto for more than a year now. Uber has also made deals with Ford and Daimler.

Lyft, the main ride-hailing alternative in the USA, has said it's also building driverless cars but has mainly focused on partnerships.

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