Putting traditional car manufacturers eyeing the ride-hailing space on notice, Uber has reached an agreement with Volvo, enabling customers in downtown Pittsburgh to order up a self-driving car from their mobile app starting later in August.
According to a report by Bloomberg, Uber’s Pittsburgh fleet of self-driving cars, which will be supervised by a live person in the driver’s seat for now, will be made up of modified Volvo XC90 SUVs that have a ton of sensors that enable the cars to drive themselves. Volvo reportedly delivered a handful of the SUVs to Uber. It has 100 due by the end of 2016. Earlier in the year, Volvo and Uber agreed to spend $300 million to create a completely self-driving car by 2021. Uber will also partner with other manufacturers to create its fleet.
Separately, Bloomberg reported that, in July, Uber reached an agreement to buy Otto, a driverless truck startup that has 91 employees, including engineers from tech companies aiming to bring self-driving cars to the market. The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but the report pegged the price tag at about $680 million. Uber’s move to acquire Otto was seen as a push by the ride-hailing app operator to recruit more engineers.
The automobile and technology industry is in a race to be the first to bring self-driving cars to the market. Earlier this week, Ford said it is gearing up to launch a self-driving car in five years. The vehicle manufacturer said it will mass produce a fully autonomous self-driving car that will be void of a steering wheel by 2021 and announced plans to double its investment in a research center in Palo Alto. Google and Tesla Motors are also players in the self-driving car area.