Volvo will send 100 self-driving cars on public roads in everyday driving conditions around the Swedish city of Gothenburg.
These Volvo vehicles will be part of the project ‘Drive Me – Self-driving cars for sustainable mobility’, a joint initiative between Volvo Car Group, the Swedish Transport Administration, the Swedish Transport Agency, Lindholmen Science Park and the City of Gothenburg.
Endorsed by the Swedish government, Volvo said the aim of the project is to pinpoint the societal benefits of autonomous driving and position Sweden and Volvo Cars as leaders in the development of future mobility.
“Autonomous vehicles are an integrated part of Volvo Cars’ as well as the Swedish government’s vision of zero traffic fatalities. This public pilot represents an important step towards this goal,” says Håkan Samuelsson, President and CEO of Volvo Car Group. “It will give us an insight into the technological challenges at the same time as we get valuable feedback from real customers driving on public roads.”
Volvo added the pilot project will involve self-driving cars using approximately 50 kilometers of selected roads in and around Gothenburg; these roads are typical commuter arteries and include highway conditions and bumper-to-bumper traffic.
“Our aim is for the car to be able to handle all possible traffic scenarios by itself, including leaving the traffic flow and finding a safe ‘harbour’ if the driver for any reason is unable to regain control,” explained Erik Coelingh, Technical Specialist at Volvo Car Group.
Volvo said the ‘Drive Me’ project will focus on a number of areas, such as studying how autonomous vehicles bring societal and economic benefits by improving traffic efficiency, the traffic environment and road safety; looking into infrastructure requirements for autonomous driving; identifying typical traffic situations most suitable for autonomous vehicles; evaluating customers’ confidence in autonomous vehicles as well as how surrounding drivers interact with a self-driving car.
Volvo explained the project will start in 2014 with customer research and technology development, as well as the development of a user interface and cloud functionality. The first cars are expected to be on the roads in Gothenburg by 2017.
Autonomous driving will give significant consumer benefits, according to Volvo, and will fundamentally change the way we look at driving cars. As a driver in the future, you will be able to plan your drive with a mix of autonomous and active driving, making your daily journey more efficient.
“The self-driving technology used in the pilot allows you to hand over the driving to the car when the circumstances are appropriate,” said Håkan Samuelsson.
The vehicles in the pilot project will be defined as Highly Autonomous Cars, according to the official definition by the Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt) in Germany. In practical terms this means that the responsibility is handed over to the vehicle, which can handle all driving functions at the driver’s discretion. The driver is expected to be available for occasional control but with a sufficiently comfortable transition time.
“Our approach is based on the principle that autonomously driven cars must be able to move safely in environments with non-autonomous vehicles and unprotected road users,” said Erik Coelingh.
Volvo explained the 100 Volvo cars driven by customers will be new models developed on the company’s upcoming Scalable Product Architecture (SPA). The architecture is prepared for the continuous introduction of new support and safety systems all the way to technologies that enable highly autonomous drive.
The first SPA model to be released will be the next generation Volvo XC90 SUV, which will be introduced in 2014.