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Volvo readies autonomous cars for real-world tests

Drive Me Volvo XC90 rolls off line, destined for consumer testing

Published: September 11, 2016, 2:30 PM
Updated: September 15, 2016, 6:00 AM

Volvo Drive Me XC90

Volvo is another step closer to probably the biggest autonomous driving test ever, with the creation of its first full autonomous vehicle that will go out into the real world to be tested by the people who are most likely to benefit from autonomous driving.

To refresh, the company’s Drive Me project involves putting autonomous vehicles into the hands of consumers, to have them test them in their everyday driving needs. The project kicks off in Gothenburg, Sweden, with plans to expand to London, England next year, and possibly China in coming years.

Volvo says the project, and autonomous driving in general, fits perfectly into the company’s long-standing philosophy of automotive safety, believing that autonomous vehicles will improve road safety immensely by removing the human-error variable of the collision-equation. Benefits of reduced congestion, improved vehicle efficiency and enhanced life/work balance will also be realized.

Working toward those goals, Volvo rolled an XC90 sport-utility vehicle off the line in Torslanda — the first in the series of autonomous vehicles that will head out on public roads as part of the Drive Me project.

“This is an important milestone for the Drive Me project,” said Erik Coelingh, Senior Technical Leader Active Safety at Volvo Cars. “Customers look at their cars differently than us engineers, so we are looking forward to learn how they use these cars in their daily lives and what feedback they will give us.”

Volvo Autonomous Driving Brain

The new Volvo 90-Series vehicles currently in public hands already have semi-autonomous functionality in the form of Pilot Assist (gentle steering corrections to keep the car aligned within lane markings). The Drive Me cars will also use hands-off and feet-off technology Volvo calls the Autonomous Driving Brain, which allows drivers to hand over complete control over steering, signalling, braking and acceleration in select autonomous driving zones set up around Gothenburg.

By choosing the customer focused approach to autonomous driving tests, Volvo hopes to quickly fine-tune its offerings to make them as relevant as possible ahead of the commercial introduction of autonomous vehicles in 2021.

Coming off the line, the Drive Me vehicles will undergo extensive testing by Volvo engineers to ensure they are ready for public use, and will then be handed over to citizens who have been chosen to participate in the Drive Me project.