Swedish-based Volvo has announced it will put 100 self-driving cars on the roads in a pilot project to take place in Gothenburg, Sweden, as Dara Kerr reports for CNET. This is the world’s first real-world, large-scale autonomous car experiment, writes Andrew Wendler for Car and Driver.
In a Volvo press release, Hakan Samuelsson, president and CEO of Volvo Car Group, said Volvo’s mission with the Drive Me project is to discover the ways that autonomous driving can benefit society, and to position Sweden and Volvo as leaders in the development of future mobility. He is quoted in the release:
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…. 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.
In what it is calling a “ground-breaking” project, Volvo writes that Drive Me is a joint initiative between Volvo Car Group, the Swedish Transport Administration, the Swedish Transport Agency, Lindholmen Science Park and the City of Gothenburg. The project is endorsed by the Swedish Government, Volvo writes.
The 100 Drive Me cars will be new models, in a program called Scalable Product Architecture, which extends from the continuous introduction of new support and safety systems all the way to technologies that enable “highly autonomous” driving, Volvo writes. The first such vehicle will be the new Volvo XC90, to be introduced in 2014, and the first autonomous cars are expected to be on the roads in Gothenburg by 2017, Volvo says.
In developing self-driving cars, Volvo joins a long list of car companies that have been working with self-driving car technology, most notably Google. As this blog has reported, the others include Audi, BMW, Ford, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen. Wendler notes that Delphi and Tesla are also involved in developing the technology. As many driving-safety experts have pointed out, once self-driving vehicles comprise all or most of the vehicles on the roads, the roads will be safer because distracted drivers will no longer exist; everyone in a car will be free to text and Web-surf since the cars will be driving themselves.
Back in May, Volvo introduced a self-driving “road-train” on public roads in Spain, as this blog reported. That “train” included a Volvo XC60, a Volvo V60, and a Volvo S60. In the U.S., several states, including California and Nevada, allow the testing of some self-driving cars such as Google’s. Last February, Colorado considered allowing the testing of these cars with Senate Bill 16, but Colorado State Senator Greg Brophy (R-Wray), who introduced the bill, indefinitely postponed it, as this blog wrote.
In its press release, Volvo discusses Sweden’s role in its Drive Me project:
‘Sweden has developed unique co-operation between the authorities, the industry and the academic community. This has resulted in a world-leading position in traffic safety. Autonomous vehicles and a smarter infrastructure will bring us another step closer to even safer traffic and an improved environment. It will also contribute to new jobs and new opportunities in Sweden,’ says Catharina Elmsater-Svard, the Swedish Minister for Infrastructure.
Self-driving vehicles can contribute to reducing infrastructure investments and enrich city life in other ways, such as by reducing emissions, and improving air quality and traffic safety.
Here is a Volvo video about Drive Me: