Swedish carmaker Volvo Cars announced on Monday that it has signed a deal with China’s largest ride-hailing platform Didi Chuxing to develop autonomous driving cars for a robotaxi fleet.
Volvo will provide Didi with its XC90 SUVs equipped with backup systems for steering and braking, the company announced. The vehicles will be the first to integrate Didi Gemini, the ride-hailing company’s new self-driving hardware platform, and will initially be deployed with human safety drivers behind the wheel.
“We decided to partner with Volvo because our visions align in three main areas: safety, which is the foundation of Didi’s autonomous driving technology, a forward looking strategy and innovation. Volvo is a respectable corporation with a legacy of human-centric innovation,” Didi Chief Technology Officer Bob Zhang told reporters at the 2021 Shanghai Auto Show on Monday.
This is not the first strategic collaboration agreement between the two companies. Last year, Volvo provided Didi with its smaller XC60 SUVs in Jiading, Shanghai’s first pilot robotaxi program, with safety drivers on board.
“We picked Didi because they have the ability and they have the will. When it comes to autonomous ride-hailing services, partnerships with the right companies are vital. Didi has shown great capabilities and business potential in its data analysis and offline operations,” Yuan Xiaolin, president and CEO of Volvo Car Asia Pacific, told reporters.
The companies did not say when the new program will be available to consumers in China.
Volvo also announced its new XC60 premium mid-size SUV that includes enhanced safety features and hybrid technology.
The revamped vehicle is equipped with a second generation Pilot Assist system which helps the driver with steering, acceleration and speed regulation on highways and major roads, Volvo said. Its City Safety system, which engages auto braking technology to avoid potential collisions, is now able to conduct reverse auto braking and emergency parking assistance to reduce driver blind spots.
The car’s voice control system is powered by iFlyTech, which is capable of detecting different Chinese dialects, the company added.
Volvo, which is owned by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, reported increased global sales for the first quarter of 2021 with 185,698 vehicles sold, representing a 40.8% jump compared with the same period last year. In March alone, Volvo sold 75,315 cars globally, up 62% year-on-year.
The Chinese market saw the biggest jump, thanks to increasing demand for the locally produced S90 and the country’s wider economic recovery from the pandemic, the company said. Total first quarter sales reached 45,242 cars, amounting to an increase of 118% year-on-year.