[December 2017] Uber-Volvo collaboration strives to introduce self-driving cars

Nicole Dienst ’18

Uber Technologies Inc. announced its plan to partner with Volvo to purchase and program self-driving cars for Uber’s use. Volvo is hoping to supply Uber with roughly 24,000 cars in their loose partnership from 2019-2021. Uber announced its intentions to partner with Volvo on Nov. 20, 2017, following a $3.5 billion investment from Saudi Arabia, to promote and publicize their plans for international expansion and improvement of Uber vehicles.

The self-driving technological programming for Uber, a ride-providing company, has not yet been built. The advanced program is currently under development by Uber’s technology department.
“I think self driving cars are the future of transportation,” Neal Soni ’18, programming app developer for MYSHS, said. “They have been proven to be more reliable — getting into less accidents per million miles than human drivers.”

If Uber eventually purchases these 24,000 cars from Volvo, it would be the first ride-providing company to have autonomous and commercial vehicles as its sole mode of transportation. The plan is that Volvo will create and manufacture these self-driving cars, while Uber creates similar technology to that of the current Uber application, programming these self-driving cars to respond to ride and directions requests from users.

These self-driving cars would also serve as a major technological shift for Uber, as currently, all Uber drivers are required to provide their own bought or leased car, and all cars have drivers. “Self driving Uber cars would be effective and cheaper for Uber to maintain, but it would remove an entire demographic, Uber drivers, from the economy,” Peter Clanton ’18 said.

Uber has not yet commented on specifics for the app, and riders have expressed concerns about having an autonomous car rather than a real person driving them.

“Computers will always be prone to errors, especially when the task at hand becomes more complicated,” Bradley Stakoff ’20 said. “When it’s a physical driver, you can give them directions, but self driving cars just follow their own programming. I would not get into a self driving Uber car.”

The new and upcoming autonomous car industry is expected to be a multi-million dollar business. Uber and Volvo have recently been testing out prototypes of their cars in Arizona and Pennsylvania.

Lucy Mather ’18 expressed her concern with the safety of these autonomous vehicles.

“I think there needs to be more safety testing,” Mather said. “Self driving Uber cars cannot only put the passenger at risk, but also others on the road.”