Uber just made a deal that will boost its self-driving efforts in a big way as well as signal a shift in the way the company operates.
The company announced a partnership with Volvo where it would buy "tens of thousands" of self-driving vehicles from the Swedish automaker, deploying them from 2019-2020. The exact terms of the deal weren't initially disclosed, but an Uber spokesperson confirmed to Mashable via email that the fleet size will be around 24,000 vehicles. The agreement is worth over $1 billion, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
The agreement marks a bold step forward for Uber, both for its autonomous program and its overall operational strategy. The ride-hailing company has long depended on drivers, which the company treats as independent contractors, to make up its fleet, but the next few years will likely see a flood of Uber-owned driverless vehicles taking the streets.
The new deal expands on a previous alliance between the two companies, which led to Uber's use of autonomous Volvo XC60 SUVs in its pilot programs in San Francisco (now shuttered to the public) and Arizona. Importantly, Volvo won't provide fully developed self-driving cars to Uber — the vehicles will come standard with "core autonomous driving technologies," and Uber will add its own sensors and software after delivery.
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