Though Number 10 aids burst Philip Hammond’s hopes of test-driving a driverless car in the West Midlands this week, autonomous “self-driving” vehicles will almost certainly become the norm in developed cities at some point.
Uber has just announced a multi-billion dollar deal to buy tens of thousands of driverless SUVs from Chinese-owned car manufacturer Volvo. The purchase agreement comes a year and three months after the ride-sharing company struck a $300m partnership with Volvo to produce new base vehicles capable of Autonomous Drive (AD) to be bought by Uber.
Volvo announced the “non-exclusive agreement” to supply Scalable Product Architecture (SPA), a move that will expand Uber’s fleet between 2019 and 2021. The car manufacturers could provide up to 24,000 XC90 vehicles as part of the tie-up, reports the FT.
“This new agreement puts us on a path towards mass produced self-driving vehicles at scale,” said Jeff Miller, Head of Auto Alliances at Uber. Volvo plan to release their first “fully autonomous car” in 2021.
The next stage of the deal will be for Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group (ATG) division to add its own AD systems to the Volvo base vehicle. Uber say they have conducted over 30,000 test-drives with AD vehicles (predominantly in the US), and claim smart technology will play a major role in reducing the 1.3m deaths from car accidents around the world each year.
“Uber cannot succeed without Machine Learning being at the core of what we do,” Uber Engineer Waleed Kadous told a seminar at the firm’s first Machine Learning Meetup on September 12, 2017, underscoring that the technology will be essential for “reliable” transportation as it will take into account complex mutable real-world data.
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“We don’t know exactly how an autonomous world will look, but we know that we want to be the platform that’s at the centre of it, from a ride-sharing standpoint,” Mr Miller told the New York Times.
PwC research from this spring suggested 2.25 million jobs were at “high risk” in light of the advent of AI automation. Asked for his view on the one million plus British drivers whose jobs could be erased by automobile automation, Chancellor Philip Hammond told Andrew Marr on Sunday “There are no unemployed people,” before saying “the way that we get higher paid jobs in this country is to embrace new technologies.” The Chancellor said, “We have to embrace change in this country”, ahead of an expected £75m pledge for AI funding on Wednesday.