Uber’s long term goal has always been to disrupt humans out of existence, and replace its fleet of man-piloted 2010 Mazda 3s with something a little more modern. That plan got an additional boost today with the news that Uber has entered into an agreement with Volvo to buy up to 24,000 self-driving cars from the automobile manufacturer.
With delivery of thousands of cars scheduled to start in 2019, that gives us a firm date for when Uber plans to deploy self-driving cars as a widespread alternative to human-navigated vehicles.
The cars in question will be Volvo’s flagship luxury SUV, the XC90. The retail price of an XC90 is somewhere around $50,000, on top of which Uber will have to supply the self-driving technology. All told, the deal could cost over $1 billion, which is a lot of cash to burn, even by Uber’s standards.
This isn’t the first time Uber and Volvo have worked together. Uber already uses Volvo’s XC90 as the testbed for its self-driving system, which is currently undergoing trials in Arizona and Pittsburgh. Although those cars are self-driving, they still have an engineer present behind the wheel, ready to take control.
Waymo, the Google self-driving car spinoff, recently announced that some of its self-driving minivans are already running around Phoenix without a human inside; within months, the company is planning on using those fully self-driving cars to launch a ride-hailing service in the city.