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Volvo to accept full responsibility for collisions caused by its driverless cars

Swedish company issues challenge to rivals and showcases interior of self-drive concept car

Volvo has unveiled a concept interior for a self-driving car and, in a challenge to other manufacturers, says it will accept full responsibility on behalf of its customers for incidents caused by any of its vehicles while in autonomous mode.

The Swedish vehicle manufacturer is believed to be the first organisation developing self-driving cars to have specifically said it will assume liability, in a move that could give it a competitive edge over its rivals.

“We firmly believe that carmakers should take full responsibility for the actions of the car when it is driving in full autonomous mode,” said Dr Peter Mertens, senior vice president research and development at Volvo Car Group.

“If a manufacturer does not accept liability, it clearly implies that they are not confident about their autonomous drive technology.”

Volvo also unveiled the Concept 26 vehicle – the number relates to the average commute time in minutes, says the company – which has a seating system that can switch from Drive to Create to Relax modes.

Once switching from Drive mode, the steering wheel retracts while a screen appears, as shown in this video.

The company’s vice president of interior design, Robin Page, commented: “It’s all about people.

“Our research clearly shows that some people will want to use their commuting time creatively when they have full autonomous drive available, while others will want to just sit back and relax, watch online media or listen to music.

“Autonomous drive will make all of this possible,” he added.

That may be the case, but what is possible, and what will happen once such vehicles come to market, may differ greatly and will depend on the legislation that allows them on the road in the first place – for example, will motorists be required to be effectively in ‘stand-by’ mode to take over from the autonomous system if something goes wrong?

– Government to review driverless vehicle rules to ensure UK becomes leader in driverless tech

 Volvo says it plans to continue its research by having “an extended fleet of fully autonomous cars driving real customers on the roads of Gothenburg, Sweden, in 2017.”

Safety initiatives from Volvo that we have previously reported on include its luminescent Life Paint, a Cyclist Detection System, and a helmet, developed in partnership with POC, that communicates with vehicles to help avoid collisions.

- Volvo Life Paint - readers give their verdict

- Volvo unveils its Cyclist Detection System with automatic braking (+ video)

- Volvo teams up with POC for collision avoiding helmet that 'talks' to cars

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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