The continual push to develop autonomous vehicles shows few signs of slowing down. The technology could have a huge impact on safety, decreasing accidents significantly if it has, or can take, control in certain scenarios. As good as humans are at driving we remain the biggest cause of road accidents.
It’s one of the reasons that Volvo has been developing fully autonomous technology, and will be testing its systems in a variety of real-world environments.
The first of Volvo’s fully-autonomous vehicles has now rolled off the production line and is being tested before handing them over to consumers. The firm’s Drive Me project, which will see 100 fully-autonomous XC90 SUVs put on public roads in Gothenburg, is due to begin next year and will be expanded to other cities including London, and possibly others in China.
The OEM believes the introduction of the technology will reduce accidents, while at the same time free up congested roads, reduce pollution and allow drivers to use their time in their cars more efficiently.
Volvo currently offers semi-autonomous functionality on some of its series production vehicles called Pilot Assist. The system gives gentle steering inputs to keep the car aligned within lane markings at speeds of up to 130km/h. For the Drive Me project vehicles will add hands off and feet off capability in special autonomous drive zones around Gothenburg.
Putting the technology into the hands of the general public as part of a test phase is a brave decision by Volvo and its management, but it’s one that it hopes will speed up the technology’s development and help it meet its target of commercial introduction by 2021.
Volvo has a number of strategic partnerships in the area of autonomous technology. Last month, it launched a new partnership with ride-sharing company Uber to jointly develop autonomous driving cars. It will also set up a jointly owned company together with Autoliv to develop autonomous driving software.
For the initial fleet of 100 autonomous XC90’s, Volvo worked with chip firm Nvidia to develop the computing system required to process the data from the onboard sensors and drive the vehicles.
Now that the first vehicle has been built, the Drive Me project comes a step closer, and below, Volvo’s senior technical leader for active safety, Erik Coelingh, explains the sensor and computer systems that have been integrated to give the SUVs their fully-autonomous functionality.