Uber is bolstering its driverless vehicle push in a major way. The ride-hailing platform has agreed to purchase 24,000 Volvo-branded SUVs that’ll be used as the basis for an autonomous auto fleet.
The premium XC90 SUV carries a base retail price of around $47,000 in the US. Uber will be purchasing the vehicles between 2019 and 2021, staggering the rollout over multiple years. Volvo said the base vehicles incorporate all necessary safety, redundancy and core autonomous driving technologies and will be ready for Uber to add their own self-driving tech.
Uber’s current business model relies almost exclusively on ordinary people that choose to drive for the company to make money (as independent contractors, not employees). Unsurprisingly, this is Uber’s biggest expense and one they could eliminate entirely by moving to self-driving vehicles.
Of course, autonomous SUVs are just a stepping stone in Uber’s eventual goal of creating a drone-based taxi service that’ll zip customers to their destinations through the air rather than drive them on the street. Uber recently partnered with NASA on a plan to bring flying taxis to Los Angeles by 2020 although personally, that date seems a little early.