Volvo to Provide Vehicles for Didi’s Self-Driving Test Fleet

Volvo Cars will provide hundreds of XC90 SUVs equipped with driverless technology to Didi Chuxing’s test fleet of robo-taxis, hoping it’ll pave the way to potential mass production.

The cars will be the first to integrate Didi’s new self-driving hardware platform, DiDi Gemini, to be deployed in Didi’s ride-hailing network, the Chinese company said Monday in a statement. The Swedish-made vehicles are equipped with a number of backup systems such as steering and breaking, enabling them to be activated for autonomous driving once other parts of the technology are ready.

“The vehicles we now deliver will be fit for operation without a driver, whenever the software and sensor sets will be capable of that,” Volvo Cars’ head of strategy Alexander Petrofski said in an interview.

Like the rest of the industry, Volvo has tempered its ambitions on rolling out self-driving vehicles, and investors have grown skeptical of the arrival of robo-taxi fleets following delays and crashes. The technology is still attracting supporters however. Self-driving startup Cruise LLC, backed by General Motors Co., last week raised $2.75 billion from investors including Walmart Inc. to take its valuation to more than $30 billion.

Volvo has pushed back a plan to offer autonomous driving in some settings by at least a year to 2022, as it readies new vehicle underpinnings that’ll support self-driving technology.

“The functionality, software and algorithms required all rely on data, and the data base will gradually grow over time,” Petrofski said. “Unfortunately it will not be possible for us to flip a switch and activate it globally, but we see a scenario where we gradually activate this with more use cases and more regions.”

Beijing-based Didi, which is the largest investment in SoftBank Group Corp.’s portfolio, is planning to raise as much as $500 million for its self-driving unit as it’s preparing for a public listing that could happen as early as this quarter. The company began testing autonomous vehicles in 2016 and aims to have more than 1 million self-driving taxis in operation by 2030.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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