© Reuters. Logo of Swedish automobile manufacturer Volvo is seen at Stierli Automobile AG company in St. Erhard
By Nick Carey
LONDON (Reuters) – Swedish carmaker Volvo Cars said on Monday it has signed an agreement to provide cars to the autonomous driving technology unit of China’s top ride-hailing firm, Didi Chuxing, for its self-driving test fleet.
Volvo will provide XC90 SUVs equipped with backup steering and braking systems that DiDi Autonomous Driving will integrate with Didi Gemini, its new self-driving hardware platform.
Didi is currently working toward an initial public offering with a valuation of at least $100 billion.
Just last week self-driving startup Cruise, which is backed by General Motors Co (NYSE:), said it had raised $2.75 billion in its latest funding round from investors including Walmart (NYSE:) Inc, taking its valuation to over $30 billion.
Volvo Cars, which is owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co Ltd, will initially provide Didi with hundreds of vehicles, with the aim of adding more as the self-driving test fleet expands, head of strategy Alexander Petrofski told Reuters.
“For us this is a tremendous opportunity because we gain real-world know-how and get to test our vehicles in a real-world environment,” Petrofski said. “This is something we will benefit from when we start rolling out this technology in applications for our customers.”
Petrofski said a few of the vehicles have already been delivered to Didi.
Volvo began providing test cars to Uber’s autonomous driving unit back in 2016. Uber Technologies (NYSE:) Inc sold that business to self-driving car startup Aurora last year and is still using Volvo vehicles.
“This (new agreement with Didi) is in line with our vision to be the partner of choice on a global level” for self-driving fleets, said Volvo’s head of autonomous driving strategy, Johan Taws.
The built-in backup systems and safety features on Volvo’s XC90 cars, combined with Didi’s self-driving system ,will eventually allow the cars to operate without safety drivers in robotaxi services, Volvo said.
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