Uber has struck a deal to buy up to 24,000 self-driving cars from Volvo. The agreement envisages that the pick-up service will purchase the vehicles over the course of three years beginning in 2019.

Uber began testing prototypes made by the carmaker last year in the US.

One expert said the announcement “makes a good headline” but had doubts that fully autonomous, driverless Uber rides would be ready to begin until some years later.

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Uber and Volvo have not disclosed financial terms, but have confirmed that the deal is “non-exclusive” – meaning both are free to form similar partnerships with others.

“Our aim is to be the supplier of choice for autonomous driving ride-sharing service providers globally,” said Volvo in a statement. “Today’s agreement with Uber is a primary example of that strategic direction.”

Chinese company Geely bought Volvo from Ford in 2010. Assuming Uber buys all 24,000 XC90 sports utility vehicles (SUVs) outlined in the agreement, the deal could be worth $1.4bn (£1.1bn), according to an estimate by the Financial Times.