Ford, Volvo/Uber launch updated autonomous vehicles
A Ford/Argo AI autonomous test vehicle drives through downtown Detroit.
Ford Motor co.

Ford, Volvo/Uber launch updated autonomous vehicles

Uber and Volvo say XC90 crossover capable of full autonomy, Ford launches third-generation test vehicle

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Cleveland, Ohio – Volvo and Uber claim their jointly developed vehicles are ready for real-world autonomous driving. Ford says it’s still working on the issue but getting closer.

Volvo and Uber have collaborated on driverless cars since 2016, and the companies say the XC90 crossover is ready for autonomy because it comes with key safety features that allow Uber to install its own self-driving system. The car features several back-up systems for steering and braking and a battery back-up power system. If primary systems fail, back-ups will immediately bring the car to a stop.

“We believe autonomous drive technology will allow us to further improve safety, the foundation of our company,” said Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive of Volvo Cars. “By the middle of the next decade we expect one-third of all cars we sell to be fully autonomous.”

“Working in close cooperation with companies like Volvo is a key ingredient to effectively building a safe, scalable, self-driving fleet,” said Uber Advanced Technologies Group CEO Eric Meyhofer added, “When paired with our self-driving technology, this vehicle will be a key ingredient in Uber’s autonomous product suite.”

Even with Volvo’s base hardware and the Uber add-ons, the vehicle won’t be operating without a safety driver behind the wheel any time soon. The vehicles and systems must prove to regulators that they’re safe, and the regulatory framework for autonomy is still evolving.

While Volvo and Uber claim they’re ready for driverless fleets, Ford’s Argo AI subsidiary is starting to test the company’s third-generation autonomous vehicles in Detroit. The company is also testing cars in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Palo Alto, California; Miami, Florida; and Washington, D.C.

Argo AI President Peter Rander said the updated autonomous vehicles feature:

  • Upgraded sensor suite: radar, camera with higher resolution, higher dynamic range
  • Upgraded software: better at seeing farther ahead, classifying items
  • Computing system?: more processing power; improved thermal management for less cabin heat, noise
  • Redundant braking, steering systems: maintain vehicle motion control if primary system fails

Rander said Detroit’s streets are great for testing because of the wide variety of types, unique traffic rules (Michigan left anyone?), and some polite terms for pothole-filled nightmares.

“Unlike Washington, D.C. and its common traffic circles or Pittsburgh and its famous multi-point intersections, Detroit roads don’t have a singular defining feature,” Rander said. “Some Detroit streets are wide and can often have unmarked lanes, presenting our vehicles with the challenge of having to reason through how to navigate while predicting what other drivers may do, so we don’t cause unnecessary congestion.”

About the author: Robert Schoenberger is the editor of Today's Motor Vehicles and a contributor to Today's Medical Developments and Aerospace Manufacturing and Design. He has written about the automotive industry for more than 19 years at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio; The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky; and The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi.

rschoenberger@gie.net