December 7, 2017
Volvo and Uber announced that they have teamed up and will be releasing a self-driving fleet of cars in 2019. Together the two companies have invested over $300 million dollars to develop and test the cars. The goal is to make driverless taxis the new normal in the future. Uber has ordered over 24,000 XC90 SUVs from Volvo. The SUV will be integrated with the self-driving sensors and software that Uber is currently developing.
Uber believes that the autonomous fleet will help improve business for them. They say that the price of using an autonomous taxi will be so cheap, that most of the public will use the taxis as their main mode of transportation. Currently, the average price of a taxi cab in New York City is $2.50 per mile. An UberX, on the other hand, costs consumers $2.15 per mile, while the cost per mile when using a personal vehicle is $0.57. Uber claims that when using the autonomous vehicles, a single rider will pay $0.25 per mile while a shared ride is $0.17 per mile. The costs decrease significantly when compared to taxis and personal vehicles because there is no driver to compensate or tip, and there is no additional upkeep to do or gas that needs to be purchased with a personal vehicle. With the cost of autonomous taxis being so low, it is possible that commuters may just stop buying cars altogether and rely on the self-driving taxis for all their transport needs. Current projections show that the number of vehicles on the road could drop by 100 million by the year 2030 since people will find using autonomous taxi services to be much more cost efficient.
Despite support from people who are ready to welcome the new autonomous technology, many people are hesitant to hop on the bandwagon. Drivers who make a living with Uber are worried that if Uber’s plans take off, they will be out of a job. Many critics and futurists have warned the general public that turning to autonomous technology will disrupt many industries and will cause a wave of joblessness. Some economists, on the other hand, are hopeful that new innovations will lead to job growth. Only time will tell how this will all eventually play out.
This partnership shows just how serious Uber is when it comes to shaping a driverless future. However, Uber has come across some stumbling blocks on the way. Currently, Uber is having to deal with a lawsuit brought about by Waymo, the autonomous car development company that Google has invested in. Waymo claims that a former employee who joined Uber had stolen documents from Waymo that contains details about the company’s self-driving technology. Waymo claims that Uber partnering up with Volvo shows that the company intends to monetize off this technology. Despite the threat of impending trial (which is set to start on February 5th), Uber is going to go full steam ahead with this deal.
Uber’s plan is an ambitious one and even though they are under legal threat, they are holding their ground and going ahead with the plan. It will be interesting to see how Uber, a company that has been plagued with troubles since its inception, will lead the way to an autonomous future.