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These Self-Driving Uber Volvo SUVs Are All Over Phoenix

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author photo by Doug DeMuro December 2017

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.

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.

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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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
These Self-Driving Uber Volvo SUVs Are All Over Phoenix - Autotrader