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These Self-Driving Uber Volvo SUVs Are All Over Phoenix

I was recently in Phoenix, which is a large metropolis in Arizona primarily known for being the home of Jimmy Eat World. I like Phoenix for many reasons, the largest of which is that while I was in Phoenix and it was 70 degrees and sunny, it was snowing back home in Philadelphia.

So anyway, I like Phoenix, and I spent a lot of time driving around Phoenix. One of the things I noticed as I was doing so is that there are literally hundreds of Volvo SUVs driving around with "Uber" writing on the side and what looks like an entire local news affiliate weather center strapped to the roof. There’s even something that’s rotating and turning like the navigation systems on a Navy ship. See the Volvo SUV models for sale near you

Obviously, I suspect I know what this is: Just a few weeks ago, it was reported that Uber is buying "up to 24,000 Volvo SUVs" to begin forming a fleet of autonomous vehicles — and, obviously, Arizona is the first place you’d want to test, as they presumably have relatively low oversight and excellent weather. Google’s self-driving car program, Waymo, is already launching driverless taxis in Chrysler Pacifica minivans in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler.

But anyway, I was shocked to see just how many of these Volvo SUVs were driving around. I’m not exaggerating when I say I saw hundreds of them (or maybe the same 20 or so, just hundreds of times, driving in a loop). They all had drivers behind the wheel, but I don’t know if those drivers were actually steering (and just using the roof-mounted equipment to photograph and map the roads) or if they were actually testing autonomous technology.

It wasn’t just XC90s. One of the pictures above also captured a Chevy Bolt in the frame. There were at least a few dozen Bolts doing autonomous testing, also with giant equipment mounted to the roof. I, on the other hand, was in a Corvette Z06, driving a normal vehicle amongst all the robots.

Anyway, my point is this: the self-driving car future isn’t far away. In fact, it’s almost here, and it seems like several companies are aggressively testing this stuff, right now, in Phoenix (and, presumably, in other places). I just want to see them make it work when it’s foggy, snowy or heavily raining — the times I’d most prefer to have a well-trained robot take over for idiotic humans. Find a Volvo SUV for sale

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. Phoenix is a perfect place to test these.  A featureless, flat, brown grid with 2-3 lanes in each direction, and they throw money at building roads above all other public needs. Fun fact, the city of Scottsdale blocked the light rail expansion, and then spent $5M putting in a fancy median on Scottsdale Rd. just to spite the public transit folks. 

  2. as someone who lives in phoenix, I generally always try and mess with them.  I cut them off to see what happens, honk, flip them off. I hate them. Ugly as sin, destroyer of car culture. Love seeing the drivers get pissed off

  3. Yeah, I see tons of these here in Phoenix. I always try to cut them off and generally mess with them— it’s quite amusing because the minute they have to deviate from their normal programming they freak out a bit. Ah well, that’s some real world learning they’ll eventually be thankful for. And yeah, Phoenix is rad. I moved here from NYC a few years ago and I love the fact that it’s nice and warm here.

  4. Stop calling self-crashing cars the “future,” because that’s making it sound positive, when it is quite the opposite. You should only mention their frequent crashes, and talk about the millions of jobs they put at risk. 

    • Assuming this is sarcasm. Right now, today, I would rather commute surrounded by self-driving cars than cars driven by the humans I see “driving” every day.  As for lost jobs, I hope you don’t use an ATM or direct deposit (lost bank teller jobs); Expedia (lost travel agent jobs); email (lost mail carrier jobs); EZ pass (lost toll collector jobs)…. I could go on and on and on…..  

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