Volvo to put autonomous cars in public hands

Company known for safety pioneering stages largest UK driving trial

Published: May 1, 2016, 10:30 PM
Updated: May 11, 2016, 3:38 PM

Volvo Drive Me Test Vehicle Interior View. - Volvo Autonomous Driving

White Volvo XC90 Drive Me Test Vehicle Side View. - Volvo XC90 Drive Me test vehicle

Volvo continues its drive towards putting autonomous vehicles on the road with what it is calling the UK’s most ambitious autonomous driving trial, which involves everyday drivers on real world roads.

For many decades synonymous with vehicle safety (since it invented the 3-point belt in 1959), Volvo is speeding down the course to autonomous driving because of its promises to drastically reduce the number of road incidents (reportedly by as much as 30%).

“Autonomous driving represents a leap forward in car safety,” said Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive of Volvo, which has targeted 2020 as the year in which nobody will be seriously injured or killed in one of its vehicles. “The sooner AD cars are on the roads, the sooner lives will start being saved.”

Volvo says an estimated 90% of all road incidents are presently caused by some form of driver error or distraction — things predicted to largely disappear with autonomous driving.

Volvo IntelliSafe Auto Pilot Interface - Volvo IntelliSafe Auto Pilot interface

“Without doubt, crash frequency will dramatically reduce. We’ve already seen this with the adoption of Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) on many new cars,” said Peter Shaw, chief executive at Thatcham Research, which will provide technical data analysis, as well as professional test drivers that may be needed for certain vehicle tests. “Research in the US by NHTSA predicts that by 2035, as a result of autonomous and connected cars, crashes will be reduced by 80%. Additionally, if a crash unfortunately can’t be avoided, then the impact speed will also drop as a result of the system’s performance - reducing the severity of the crash.”

The added benefit is that it is also predicted to reduce congestion on the roads because it allows vehicles to move along more smoothly, which should also translate into reductions in automotive pollution and driving times.

Samuelsson will be addressing a group of UK insurance professionals May 3 in London at a seminar entitled “A Future with Autonomous Driving Cars – Implications for the Insurance Industry.”

The UK autonomous driving trial — Drive Me London — will be unique in that it will be carried out by real families driving AD cars on public roads. It hopes to gather data and opinions on how to make AD vehicles more suitable to real world driving needs and conditions.

The test starts early in 2017 with a limited number of cars, and expand in 2018 to include up to 100 AD cars.

“Governments globally need to put in place the legislation and infrastructure to allow AD cars onto the streets as soon as possible,” concludes Samuelsson. “The car industry cannot do it all by itself. We need governmental help.”