Posts

Uber’s self-driving Volvo is ready for action

Volvo and Uber partner on autonomous cars

Uber and Volvo have revealed the result of a collaborative project running since the two companies entered a joint engineering agreement in 2016. The self-driving Uber-branded Volvo XC90 is production-ready and could be sent into action now.

Does the Uber Volvo have a ‘driver’?

It seems redundant to ask whether the newly-announced self-driving Volvo has a driver but no, not exactly. What it does have is a ‘mission specialist’. That’s a specially-trained Uber employee that operates and oversees the car when in use in areas that allow autonomous cars to run.

Is it safe?

Volvo and Uber partner on autonomous cars

Volvo is arguably the best company to approach for an autonomous taxi. As such, a great deal has been made of the numerous backup systems that these vehicles will come with. These are redundancies that will safely run the vehicle, or bring it to a stop, in the event of something like steering, drive or brakes failing, including battery back-up power.

In fact, the XC90 was a chosen base for the project given its excellent arsenal of safety features and an impeccable safety record.

Sensors on top and built into the vehicle run Uber’s self-driving system, allowing it to operate in built-up and busy areas.

Tens of thousands of autonomous Uber Volvos to come

This is the first of a five-figure sum of drive-ready base vehicles to be delivered by Volvo for Uber’s self-driving service over the coming years.

“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. Our agreement with Uber underlines our ambition to be the supplier of choice to the world’s leading ride-hailing companies.”

Volvo and Uber partner on autonomous cars

“Working in close cooperation with companies like Volvo is a key ingredient to effectively building a safe, scalable, self-driving fleet,” said Eric Meyhofer, CEO of Uber Advanced Technologies Group.

“Volvo has long been known for its commitment to safety, which is the cornerstone of its newest production-ready self-driving base vehicle. When paired with our self-driving technology, this vehicle will be a key ingredient in Uber’s autonomous product suite.”

Cabs.com to take on Uber in UK

Cabs.com

Taxi firm aggregator Cabs.com has launched a new online platform offering fares from 8,000 firms boasting 150,000 cabs across the UK. This is significantly more than Uber’s UK network of 50,000 drivers.

And Cabs.com has the potential to get even larger, as the market has 15,000 cab firms and 250,000 cars.

Consumers will be able to access the entire minicab market via a single app, with Cabs.com promising a better geographic spread. Current digital hailing services tend to be city-centric, meaning Cabs.com should reach the parts of the country Uber cannot reach.

From a safety and security perspective, Cabs.com customers will benefit from local authority security checks required for all cab drivers. Many cab drivers have also undergone disability awareness training and child sexual abuse/awareness training.

The Cabs.com passenger app provides live mapping of the cab, driver and car details, a two-click booking system, cash and card payment options, and the ability to pre-book future journeys.

‘A huge opportunity’

Brighton taxi

William Berry, CEO and founder of Cabs.com, said: “This is a huge opportunity to bring together all the independent cab companies, and their drivers into one advanced digital hailing service, with great benefits to passengers across the UK in terms of convenience, availability, service and cost.

“As we grow in the UK we intend to extend the proposition to the US and other English-speaking countries.”

In March 2019, cab firm pages received around 150,000 page views on Cabs.com, generated by word of mouth and through search engines. Berry says that social media will play a big part in the company’s future growth.

“Cabs.com already has 50 percent of the UK cab companies (8,051) listed on our website. We aim to convert 20 percent of those to our subscription services in the first year.

“We believe, as in the early digital hailing era, word of mouth and social media will play a significant role in accelerating our conversion rate as consumers and cab firms quickly understand the benefits to be had by belonging to such a strong, pioneering, needed platform.

“We currently have similar listings in the US on our website and foresee extending our services there as we achieve critical mass in the UK.”

Reaching the regions

Taxi cabs Abergavenny

It’ll be interesting to watch Cabs.com’s growth in rural areas – regions where Uber has struggled. For example, Cabs.com boasts one firm in Perth and Kinross, six on the Isle of Wight, 12 in Herefordshire, six in East Lothian and 12 in Powys.

In traditional Uber heartlands, Cabs.com has a stronger presence – there are 1,661 firms in Greater London. 

Uber NHS free rides

Uber drivers on strike from today: what you need to know

Uber strike

If you planned to hail an Uber taxi later, don’t bother. A 24-hour strike is planned by drivers, beginning at 1pm today (9 October).

Protests are planned outside the company’s offices across the UK – in London, Birmingham and Nottingham – and customers have been urged to not cross the “digital picket line”.

Why are Uber drivers protesting?

The United Private Hire Drivers union (UPHD) is organising to protest fare increases in London, which have gone up from £1.25 per mile to £2. They’re also unhappy about a 10 percent reduction in commissions and alleged unfair dismissal of drivers.

Drivers argue Uber is no longer a viable source of income, with 12 hours of work needed each day, they say, to make a living wage. There were reports last year that around a third of Uber’s 50,000+ drivers were putting in more than 40 hours a week.

Nevertheless, Uber insists its drivers are getting a good deal under the current system. It cites a study that suggests drivers in London make £11 an hour on average, after expenses and Uber’s commission.

Uber strike

London mayor Sadiq Khan recently announced he was keen to limit the number of Uber drivers operating in the city. The intention is to reduce congestion and ease driver competition. At present, however, he lacks the powers to enforce any such measures.

In August, New York City signed a one-year freeze on new licenses for drivers working with car-hailing services. It also set a minimum wage. New York is Uber’s largest American market.

What about Uber alternatives? In the UK, Gett and Addison Lee are probably your best bets.

Read more:

Volvo is supplying Uber with 24,000 self-driving cars

Volvo is supplying Uber with 24,000 self-driving cars

Volvo is supplying Uber with 24,000 self-driving cars

Volvo Cars has signed a framework agreement with controversial ride-sharing firm Uber to supply it with up to 24,000 self-driving cars.

It comes a year after Volvo revealed its driverless XC90 as part of a $300 million project to bring level five autonomous cars to the roads. So far, around 200 XC90s are already being trialled in the USA.

Uber will buy the adapted vehicles from Volvo, adding its own sensor to the roof and operate them as part of the Uber network. If regulations allow, these vehicles could be operated without any driver.

In a statement released by Volvo today, the Chinese-owned car manufacturer said it would supply base vehicles developed on its in-house Scalable Product Architecture (SPA), which underpins the current XC90 and XC60.

Volvo is supplying Uber with 24,000 self-driving cars

The non-exclusive – and non-binding – agreement could see tens of thousands of autonomous Volvos becoming part of Uber’s ‘robotaxi’ fleet by 2021.

“The automotive industry is being disrupted by technology and Volvo Cars chooses to be an active part of that disruption,” said the firm’s president and chief executive, Håkan Samuelsson. “Our aim is to be the supplier of choice for AD ride-sharing service providers globally. Today’s agreement with Uber is a primary example of that strategic direction.”

“This new agreement puts us on a path towards mass produced self-driving vehicles at scale,” added Uber’s head of auto alliances, Jeff Miller.

Uber is currently going through an appeal which could allow it to continue operating in London, after Transport for London concluded it was ‘not fit and proper’ to operate in the capital.

>NEXT: Volvo’s partnered with Uber to create a driverless car

Uber under fire after self-driving cars run red lights

Uber under fire after self-driving cars run red lights

Uber under fire after self-driving cars run red lights

Transportation giant Uber has been threatened by authorities in California after a number of its self-driving vehicles were spotted committing traffic violations during testing in San Francisco.

The company has failed to get the appropriate state permit to trial the autonomous vehicles – but has argued that it isn’t needed, because all its cars have a driver to monitor the situation and take over if required.

Uber is trialling ‘a handful’ of Volvo XC90s fitted with its autonomous driving equipment in the city – with two caught on camera running red lights during the first day of the trial.

The first was caught on dashcam by an operations manager for cab company Luxor. It shows an Uber XC90 running through a pedestrian crossing several seconds after the light changed to red.

Uber under fire after self-driving cars run red lights

Elsewhere in the city, a member of the public also snapped an Uber vehicle ignoring a red light at an intersection.

The company has responded blaming the incidents on ‘human error’.

In a statement, Uber said: “These incidents were due to human error. This is why we believe so much in making the roads safer by building self-driving Ubers. The drivers involved have been suspended while we continue to investigate.”

Regulators in California have written to Uber threatening to take legal action if it didn’t stop trialling the vehicles with a permit.

“It is essential that Uber takes appropriate measures to ensure safety of the public,” the California department of motor vehicles (DMV) said. “If Uber does not confirm immediately that it will stop its launch and seek a testing permit, DMV will initiate legal action.”

The company is no stranger to controversy. It’s attracted a great deal of criticism – and legal challenges – over its use of unlicensed drivers.

Snapped: Uber is mapping UK roads in a Hyundai i20

Snapped: Uber is mapping UK roads in a Hyundai i20

Snapped: Uber is mapping UK roads in a Hyundai i20

Last month, we revealed that transportation giant Uber is creating its own maps of UK roads to help its drivers – and in the future, driverless cars – when picking up customers.

The firm has already started mapping key locations in the US, but it said it was now launching a fleet of mapping vehicles in London, then rolling them out elsewhere in the coming weeks and months.

Well, we can now officially report they’re spreading further afield, as we’ve seen one. Snapped around the corner from MR’s office in Hertfordshire, this brand new Hyundai i20 was adorned with Uber stickers and giveaway tracking equipment positioned on the roof.

Measuring traffic levels in the evening rush hour, the base-spec 1.2-litre Hyundai i20 is a bit different to the Volvo XC90s we envisaged. After all, Uber’s already announced a partnership with Volvo to launch autonomous cars.

If Uber’s got something going on with Hyundai in the UK, how long will it be before we see a fleet of Uber Ioniqs on London’s roads?

Snapped a unique car on the road? Tag us on Twitter or Instagram with #MRsnapped!

Uber is mapping UK roads ready for launching driverless cars

Uber is mapping UK roads ready for launching driverless cars

Uber is mapping UK roads ready for launching driverless cars

Uber has deployed a fleet of mapping cars on the capital’s streets in a bid to create its own Google Street View – allowing drivers and users to find the best pick-up and drop-off points as well as the best routes to avoid congestion.

The controversial transportation firm has already been mapping US roads in a similar way to Apple and Tomtom, it says, and is now looking to map London’s streets – with other UK towns and cities to follow in the coming weeks and months.

Writing in a blog post, Uber’s Brian McClendon, formerly head of maps at Google, said: “Behind every successful Uber ride is a technology many of us take for granted: maps. Mobile maps and GPS allow us to match you with the closest available driver, navigate the fastest path to your destination, and give you an accurate ETA. Accurate maps are at the heart of our service and the backbone of our business.

“Existing maps are a good starting point,” McClendon explains. “But some information isn’t that relevant to Uber, like ocean topography. There are other things we need to know a lot more about, like traffic patterns and precise pick-up and drop-off locations. Moreover, we need to be able to provide a seamless experience in parts of the world where there aren’t detailed maps — or street signs.”

The move could also help Uber’s fleet of driverless cars, which are already being trialled on public roads in Pennsylvania. A fleet of four autonomous Ford Fusions have been giving rides to customers with technicians on-hand to monitor the car’s behaviour and take over when required.

Experts have said that Uber’s ability to crunch huge amounts of data collected from the millions of miles covered by Uber drivers have helped put it ahead of carmakers in the race to launch the driverless car.

“Over the past decade mapping innovation has disrupted industries and changed daily life in ways I couldn’t have imagined when I started,” added McClendon. “That progress will only accelerate in the coming years especially with technologies like self-driving cars. I remain excited by the prospect of how maps can put the world at our fingertips, improve everyday life, impact billions of people and enable innovations we can’t even imagine today.”

Uber is also working with Volvo to launch a new autonomous car based on the same SPA platform as the XC90 and S90.

Nissan-Leaf-Uber

Uber trials fleet of all-electric Nissan Leafs in London

Nissan-Leaf-Uber

Car-hailing service Uber and Nissan are to embark on a ‘new, major electric vehicle project’ that involves a fleet of Nissan Leaf EVs in the nation’s capital.

Nissan has supplied 20 all-electric Nissan Leafs to Uber for use as part of an extensive EV trial. It’s the first time pure EVs have been available for hire through the Uber app in London. To-date, the greenest cars on the Uber fleet have been hybrid vehicles, such as the Toyota Prius.

Run in partnership with the Energy Saving Trust (EST), the study will look at the feasibility of running large numbers of electric private hire cars in the UK, with one eye on the introduction of the capital’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone in 2020. Around 60% of Uber journeys are made in hybrid vehicles, but the company is keen to go further.

Jo Bertram, regional general manager of Uber in the UK, said: “People already associate Uber with hybrid cars, but we now want to go a big step further with fully electric cars on the road from today.

“We are determined to use technology to help tackle the challenge of air pollution in London and across the UK. Our car-sharing service has already saved 1.2 million miles and 211 metric tonnes of CO2. With electric vehicles – and more people sharing their journey and leaving their own cars at home – there’s even more we can do.”

Nissan recently introduced a new 30 kWh battery for the Leaf that delivers 26% more range versus the previous-generation model: up to 155 miles of driving on a single charge. The average London commute is 7.9 miles, which means a 30 kWh Leaf could tackle a number of journeys before it would need to be recharged.

Gareth Dunsmore, head of electric vehicles at Nissan Europe, said: “We are delighted to be working closely with Uber on what is a very exciting project that could ultimately lead to major improvements in air quality in London and across the UK.

“With the impact of poor air quality remaining a cause for concern, the trial could prove to be a pivotal moment for tackling the challenges in London.”

This isn’t the first time a cab firm has taken a drive down electric avenue. Earlier this year, Nissan supplied a fleet of 110 Nissan Leafs to La Ciudad del Taxi, a Madrid-based taxi company. At the time, Nissan claimed it was “the world’s largest 100% electric taxi fleet deal”, going on to say it has sold almost 800 EVs to taxi operators across Europe.

Volvo's partnered with Uber to create a driverless car

Volvo’s partnered with Uber to create a driverless car

Volvo's partnered with Uber to create a driverless car

Swedish car manufacturer Volvo has announced that it will work with ride-sharing company Uber as part of a $300 million project to bring driverless cars to the roads.

Volvo will produce a ‘base vehicle’ which it will sell to Uber. The tech transportation firm will then use it to trial its own autonomous technology – and Volvo will, at the same time, work on its own driverless systems.

Volvo Cars president and chief executive, Håkan Samuelsson, said: “Volvo is one of the most progressive and contemporary car makers in the world. It is a world leader in the development of active safety and autonomous drive technology, and possesses an unrivalled safety credibility.

“We are very proud to be the partner of choice for Uber, one of the world’s leading technology companies. This alliance places Volvo at the heart of the current technological revolution in the automotive industry.”

The new base vehicle is expected to be a modified version of the premium XC90 SUV.

Volvo has previously revealed plans to test its autonomous cars on London’s roads in 2017 – while Uber is already trialling the technology in the States.

Uber’s chief executive, Travis Kalanick, said: “Over one million people die in car accidents every year. These are tragedies that self-driving technology can help solve, but we can’t do this alone. That’s why our partnership with a great manufacturer like Volvo is so important.

“Volvo is a leader in vehicle development and best-in-class when it comes to safety. By combining the capabilities of Uber and Volvo we will get to the future faster, together.”

The technology could lead to Uber users being able to summon driverless cars for lifts, without having to rely on drivers.

It comes after Ford announced it would launch a high-volume autonomous car by 2021.

Volvo's partnered with Uber to create a driverless car

Volvo's partnered with Uber to create a driverless car

Volvo's partnered with Uber to create a driverless car

Swedish car manufacturer Volvo has announced that it will work with ride-sharing company Uber as part of a $300 million project to bring driverless cars to the roads.

Volvo will produce a ‘base vehicle’ which it will sell to Uber. The tech transportation firm will then use it to trial its own autonomous technology – and Volvo will, at the same time, work on its own driverless systems.

Volvo Cars president and chief executive, Håkan Samuelsson, said: “Volvo is one of the most progressive and contemporary car makers in the world. It is a world leader in the development of active safety and autonomous drive technology, and possesses an unrivalled safety credibility.

“We are very proud to be the partner of choice for Uber, one of the world’s leading technology companies. This alliance places Volvo at the heart of the current technological revolution in the automotive industry.”

The new base vehicle is expected to be a modified version of the premium XC90 SUV.

Volvo has previously revealed plans to test its autonomous cars on London’s roads in 2017 – while Uber is already trialling the technology in the States.

Uber’s chief executive, Travis Kalanick, said: “Over one million people die in car accidents every year. These are tragedies that self-driving technology can help solve, but we can’t do this alone. That’s why our partnership with a great manufacturer like Volvo is so important.

“Volvo is a leader in vehicle development and best-in-class when it comes to safety. By combining the capabilities of Uber and Volvo we will get to the future faster, together.”

The technology could lead to Uber users being able to summon driverless cars for lifts, without having to rely on drivers.

It comes after Ford announced it would launch a high-volume autonomous car by 2021.