In the not-distant future, hailing an Uber may involve a car but not a driver.
Fortune reports that the leading ride-sharing company has inked a non-binding order with Volvo to purchase 24,000 self-driving cars.
The deal, if consummated, would mark a transition by Uber from arranging rides with third-party drivers to owning a fleet of vehicles that don’t need drivers at all.
Uber has already started experimenting with Volvo self-driving cars. Volvo, owned by the Chinese car company Geely, could provide Uber with up to 24,000 autonomously operated XC90 model SUVs between 2019 and 2021.
The non-autonomous version of the XC90 costs about $50,000.
If the concept proves viable, customers could order a ride from a self-driving vehicle through the Uber app.
Uber is losing billions of dollars annually, and analysts pin the losses on the fees that the company pays drivers. Self-driving cars would eliminate that expense.
“Our goal was from day one to make investments into a vehicle that could be manufactured at scale,” said Jeff Miller, Uber’s head of automotive alliances. “It only becomes a commercial business when you can remove that vehicle operator from the equation.”
Rival ride-sharing company Lyft also has signaled interest in operating self-driving cars.
Earlier this week Uber revealed it had been hit by a huge data breach in 2016, affecting more than 57 million users and 600,000 drivers worldwide.