Volvo Car Group will take a leading role in the first large-scale autonomous driving pilot project in which 100 self-driving Volvo cars will use public roads in everyday driving conditions around the Swedish city of Gothenburg.
The project “Drive Me – Self-driving cars for sustainable mobility” 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 aim of the “Drive Me” project, which is endorsed by the Swedish Government, is to pinpoint the societal benefits of autonomous driving and position Sweden and Volvo Cars as leaders in the development of future mobility.
The vehicles in the pilot project are defined as Highly Autonomous Cars, according to the official definition by the Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt) in Germany. In practical terms this means that the responsibility is handed over to the vehicle, which can handle all driving functions at the driver’s discretion. The driver is expected to be available for occasional control but with a sufficiently comfortable transition time.
The 100 Volvo cars driven by customers will be new models developed on the company’s upcoming Scalable Product Architecture (SPA). The architecture is prepared for the continuous introduction of new support and safety systems all the way to technologies that enable highly autonomous drive. The first SPA model will be the all-new Volvo XC90, which will be introduced in 2014.
The project also includes fully automated parking, without a driver in the car. This allows the driver to walk away from the car at the parking entrance while the vehicle finds a vacant spot and parks by itself.
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.—Håkan Samuelsson, President and CEO of Volvo Car Group
The pilot will involve self-driving cars using approximately 50 kilometers of selected roads in and around Gothenburg. These roads are typical commuter arteries and include motorway conditions and frequent queues.
Our aim is for the car to be able to handle all possible traffic scenarios by itself, including leaving the traffic flow and finding a safe harbor if the driver for any reason is unable to regain control.—Erik Coelingh, Technical Specialist at Volvo Car Group
The ‘Drive Me’ project will focus on a number of areas, including:
How autonomous vehicles bring societal and economic benefits by improving traffic efficiency, the traffic environment and road safety;
Infrastructure requirements for autonomous driving;
Typical traffic situations suitable for autonomous vehicles;
Customers’ confidence in autonomous vehicles; and
How surrounding drivers interact smoothly with a self-driving car.
The project will commence in 2014 with customer research and technology development, as well as the development of a user interface and cloud functionality. The first cars are expected to be on the roads in Gothenburg by 2017.
Moving toward greater autonomy with current production vehicles. Allowing the car to act automatically is critical in moving towards the vision that future cars will not crash at all. The present systems for auto braking, lane keeping aid and adaptive cruise control are examples of the first steps towards autonomous driving. Volvo Cars is moving towards technologies with a higher degree of autonomous driving in normal traffic situations.
The first autonomous features will be introduced in the all-new Volvo XC90 by the end of 2014: Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with steer assist automatically follows the vehicle ahead in queues. Other features include road edge and barrier detection with steer assist, which detects if the car is about to drive off the road and autonomously applies steering torque to bring the vehicle back on track.
The next step is technology that follows the car in front at higher speeds, allowing the driver to take his or her hands off the steering wheel while still surveying the drive. This in turn paves the way for the introduction of Highly Autonomous Cars that hand over responsibility to the vehicle, which handles all driving functions at the driver’s discretion—the technology that will be tested and evaluated in the Drive Me project.