Volvo Supplying XC90 SUVs for New Self-Driving Test Fleet

Volvo and DiDi Autonomous Driving are partnering for a robotaxi test fleet in China to explore the viability of safe, self-driving shuttle services. (Volvo Car USA)

Volvo Cars will provide vehicles for DiDi Autonomous Driving’s test fleet, according to the details of a new partnership. In the agreement, Volvo will supply XC90 SUVs specially equipped with the necessary backup systems to ensure safe autonomous driving.

DiDi is the self-driving technology arm of Didi Chuxing, a mobility technology platform based in China. According to Volvo Cars, the two companies plan to “build a long-term partnership” as DiDi expands its autonomous test fleets.

“This strategic collaboration with DiDi Autonomous Driving is further validation of our ambition to be the partner of choice to the world’s leading ride-hailing companies,” said Håkan Samuelsson, Volvo Cars’ chief executive. “Combining DiDi’s expanding robotaxi program with our safe cars creates a great match to build trust among consumers for autonomous ride-hailing.”

This is not the first partnership between DiDi and Volvo Cars. In 2020, DiDi used the Volvo XC60 SUV to pilot its Shanghai robotaxi program. Under this program, riders are picked up by an autonomous vehicle after booking a trip online. A safety driver and an engineer are aboard to take control if necessary, adding an extra layer of safety.

According to DiDi CEO Bob Zhang, this next project relies heavily on Volvo’s commitment to safety: “DiDi Gemini, our new self-driving hardware platform, incorporates critical hardware improvements from our test passenger service operations in Shanghai. With Volvo Cars’ leadership in safety, we look forward to achieving new milestones toward future autonomous transport services.”

The XC90s will be the first vehicles to drive with the DiDi Gemini self-driving hardware platform, which is poised to power DiDi’s network in the future. If the implementation is successful, the combination could facilitate safe autonomous driving without safety drivers.

According to Volvo’s Vice President of Strategy, Alexander Petrofski, the Swedish automaker has already delivered several XC90s to DiDi. The company expects to add hundreds more as the testing expands.

Could this mean that we will soon see Volvo XC90 robotaxis across the U.S.? Because the automaker’s upcoming vehicles use its new SPA2 architecture and are equipped with lidar sensors, future Volvos should be capable of safe, hands-free driving on highways. As for the robotaxis, however, we will have to wait until commercial operations are fully functional.

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