Volvo Cars recently announced the official kick-off of Drive Me, its advanced public autonomous driving experiment that aims to make fully self-driving cars a reality on the roads.
The official launch of Drive Me coincided with the production of Volvo’s very first autonomous car – an XC90 SUV – that will eventually be given to real families in Gothenburg, Sweden, to be driven on public roads.
Volvo believes that the introduction of autonomous driving technologies will reduce car accidents, cut congestion, limit pollution and allow drivers to put the time they spend in their cars to better use.
The company has long prided itself on being a leader in vehicle safety – introducing the three-point seat belt in 1959. Its vision is that no one will be seriously injured or killed in a new Volvo by the year 2020.
The company’s Drive Me Project is a research venture that brings together academia and the private and public sectors to explore the opportunities and benefits that autonomous driving can bring.
Launched in 2013, the project has introduced several test vehicles to Gothenburg’s roads since 2014, with its public pilot due to start in 2017.
Volvo’s existing semi-autonomous technology, Pilot Assist, is offered on its 90 series cars. The technology gently aids the car’s steering to keep it within lane markings at speeds of up to 130 km/h.
The Drive Me programme will upgrade these functions by adding ‘hands-off’ and ‘feet-off’ capabilities within special autonomous driving zones around Gothenburg.
To help fine-tune its self-driving technologies, Volvo will use the Drive Me project to collect feedback and inputs from actual customers using its autonomous cars in their everyday lives, rather than simply relying on research from its engineers.
“Customers look at their cars differently than us engineers, so we are looking forward to learn how they use these cars in their daily lives and what feedback they will give us,” said Erik Coelingh, Senior Technical Leader Active Safety at Volvo Cars.
Volvo will then integrate this feedback as it develops its offering ahead of a planned commercial introduction in 2021.
The car manufacturer’s Gothenburg project is the first in a number of planned public trials of its autonomous cars, with another due to be launched in London next year. The company is also assessing bids from Chinese cities for a Drive Me project to be carried out there within the next few years.