Volvo to supply Uber with up to 24,000 self-driving cars

The self-driving system that would be used in the Volvo self-driving cars — which have yet to be built — is under development by Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group. (Reuters)
Updated 20 November 2017
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Volvo to supply Uber with up to 24,000 self-driving cars

STOCKHOLM/SAN FRANCISCO: Uber plans to buy up to 24,000 self-driving cars from Volvo, marking the transition of the US firm from an app used to summon a taxi to the owner and operator of a fleet of cars.
The non-binding framework deal could offer San Francisco-based Uber a way to overcome setbacks at its autonomous driving division in Silicon Valley’s race to perfect self-driving systems.
Combining Volvo’s cars with Uber’s self-driving system builds on their nearly three-year relationship and comes as Uber’s autonomous driving unit has been hit by a lawsuit over trade secrets and the departure of top talent.
Automakers, ride-hailing firms and tech startups have been forging loose alliances in an effort to advance self-driving technology and claim a piece of what is expected to be a multi-billion-dollar business.
Geely-owned Volvo said in a statement on Monday it would provide Uber with its flagship XC90 SUVs equipped with autonomous technology as part of a non-exclusive deal from 2019 to 2021. A Volvo spokesman said it covered up to 24,000 cars.
The self-driving system that would be used in the Volvo cars — which have yet to be built — is under development by Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group.
Should Uber buy all 24,000 cars, it would be Volvo’s largest order by far and the biggest sale in the autonomous vehicle industry, giving Uber, which is losing more than $600 million a quarter, its first commercial fleet of cars.
A new Volvo XC90 typically retails from a starting price of around $50,000 (SR187,501).
Uber has been testing prototype Volvo cars for more than a year, with safety drivers in the front seat to intervene if the self-driving system fails, in Tempe, Arizona and Pittsburgh. “Our goal was from day one to make investments into a vehicle that could be manufactured at scale,” Jeff Miller, Uber’s head of automotive alliances, said.
The cars, in theory, would be available through the Uber app to pick up passengers without a driver.
“It only becomes a commercial business when you can remove that vehicle operator from the equation,” Miller said.
No financial details were disclosed for the purchase, which would be a massive new investment for Uber and mark a change from Uber’s long-standing business model where contractor drivers buy or lease and maintain their own cars.
Miller said a small number of cars would be purchased using equity and others would be bought using debt financing.
The deal builds on a $300 million alliance Volvo announced with Uber last year focused on collaborating on the design and financing of cars with self-driving systems, which require different steering and braking features and sensors.
“We get support developing this car,” Volvo Cars CEO Hakan Samuelsson said in an interview. “It’s also a big commercial deal.”


China files WTO challenge to US’ $200 billion tariff plan

Updated 48 min 54 sec ago
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China files WTO challenge to US’ $200 billion tariff plan

  • The one-sentence Commerce Ministry statement gave no legal grounds for the challenge or other details
  • Beijing has stepped up diplomatic efforts to recruit support from Europe and South Korea

BEIJING: China announced it filed a World Trade Organization challenge Monday to US President Donald Trump’s proposal for a tariff hike on $200 billion of Chinese goods, reacting swiftly amid deepening concern about the economic impact of their spiraling technology dispute.
The one-sentence Commerce Ministry statement gave no legal grounds for the challenge or other details. It is an unusually rapid move for a trade case, coming less than one week after the US Trade Representative announced the tariff plan, which wouldn’t take effect until at least September.
The USTR said last week that it proposed the levy in response to Beijing’s decision to retaliate for US tariff hikes over complaints China is hurting American companies by stealing or pressuring foreign enterprises to hand over technology.
China criticized the move but has yet to say whether it would retaliate for the second round of tariffs. Its lopsided trade balance with the United States means it has only $80 billion of annual imports of American goods left for retaliation following its earlier measures.
Beijing has stepped up diplomatic efforts to recruit support from Europe, South Korea and other trading partners but so far without success.