Volvo & Uber are Partnering to Test a Fleet of Autonomous XC90s

The autonomous future is progressing as Volvo and Uber announced on August 18th that the two are entering a partnership to develop fully autonomous vehicles that will hit U.S. roads by the end of 2016. At that time, approximately 100 of Volvo’s XC90 SUVs will take to the streets of Pittsburgh, PA.

So what changes for Uber customers?

Virtually nothing… for now.

Customers will summon the self-driving vehicles from their smartphones just as they do now. But don’t panic, those cars will have human drivers acting as safety nets behind the wheel in the early phase of the testing. But eventually, Volvo officials say the project will test “fully autonomous driverless cars.”

Volvo will manufacture the cars that will then be purchased by Uber. From there, Uber will install and upload its own self-driving technology in the vehicles. Both companies intend to continue pursuing their own, independent autonomous technologies and both view their partnership as a “longer-term industrial partnership,” according to Volvo.

For Uber, the upcoming testing marks their first step towards marrying autonomous tech with ride-hailing services, a combination that many transportation experts believe could fundamentally alter how people and goods move around urban environments. Uber and others believe that by removing the expense of human drivers, they can beat the costs associated with traditional vehicle ownership.

Both the Volvo-Uber and Uber-Otto announcements come two days after Ford laid out its own plan for introducing self-driving cars to the American market. The company said it would deliver fully autonomous cars to U.S. roads in ride-hailing operations by 2021.