Volvo is to begin a large scale trial of driverless cars on public roads within three years.
The project, Drive Me, has the ambition of eliminating deadly car crashes in Sweden, according to Erik Coelingh, technical specialist at Volvo Car Group. Volvo’s aim is that no-one should be killed or seriously injured in one of their cars by 2020.
Many of their ranges already include pedestrian and cyclist detection technology and autonomous emergency braking.
People who buy the autonomous XC90 cars will be able to forget about the controls on around 30 miles along 50 commuter routes around Sweden’s second largest city, including motorways and frequently jammed junctions. The cars will even be able to park themselves.
In a collaboration between Volvo, the Swedish Transport Administration, the Swedish Transport Agency, Lindholmen Science Park and the City of Gothenburg, there will be 100 ‘autonomous drive’ cars on the streets of Gothenburg by 2017, in an attempt to demonstrate how much safer self-driving cars are.
“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,” Håkan Samuelsson, President and CEO of the Volvo Car Group, told the Telegraph.
“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.”
A video available to view here explains how the cars use radars and cameras to monitor the environment around them, also making use of a map being constantly updated from Volvo’s cloud.
The creators say that humans will need to control the cars around pedestrians in the city centre, saying that they will be most useful in monotonous traffic situations, where by 2017, it should be possible for drivers to read the paper or have a cup of coffee on selected roads.
Emergency controls can be used by the driver in the case of the technology failing, and Volvo's self-driving car will stop in its lane or if possible in an emergency lane if the driver cannot take over.
Automated parking will be possible in certain areas by the driver getting out and using an app on his or her mobile to start the parking process. The car will search for a free space before parking itself, while keeping account of other cars and pedestrians.
“Hardly anyone thinks twice about being in an airplane that flies on autopilot, but being in a car that drives by itself while the driver reads a book is still quite a revolutionary thought for many people,” added Samuelsson.
Last year we reported how two thirds of motorists say they’re unsure about the merits of driverless cars, while four in ten state that they would never even consider driving one, according to a survey from road safety charity IAM.
Opinion regarding such vehicles being restricted to driving within the speed limit is split right down the middle – half of motorists polled say it is a positive feature, but half see it as a drawback.
Cars that drive themselves are also being tested by Google, Mercedes and other companies. As we reported last year, Florida and California have permitted testing of self-driving vehicles. And the UK announced in July it would start testing autonomous cars on the road by the end of the year.
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.