Volvo is about to start the world's first large-scale self-driving car pilot project which will see 100 autonomous vehicles hitting the roads of Volvo's hometown — Gothenburg, Sweden.
The project, called “Drive Me – Self-driving cars for sustainable mobility” is backed by the Swedish government and aims to identify the social benefits of letting the car take the strain and, of course, to highlight Volvo's position as an innovator in the field of autonomous driving technology.
The cars will run on approximately 50 kilometers (311 miles) of roads around the city. Gothenburg, Sweden's second largest city, was selected because of their propensity for congestion.
As well as social benefits, the project will examine how self-driving cars can reduce traffic queues and increase road safety; how consumers feel about and respond to the technology; the changes in infrastructure required to support autonomous vehicles; and the traffic and road situations most suitable for the technology.
“The public pilot will provide us with a valuable insight into the societal benefits of making autonomous vehicles a natural part of the traffic environment. Smart vehicles are part of the solution, but a broad societal approach is also necessary to offer sustainable personal mobility in the future. We believe that this cross-functional co-operation can give this development a boost,” says Erik Coelingh, Technical Specialist at Volvo Car Group.
Announced on Monday, Dec. 2, the project will officially commence in 2014 with consumer research and technology development — this will include refining a user interface and building a cloud platform. As a result, the first cars are not expected to take to the streets until 2017.
“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 towards even safer traffic and an improved environment. It will also contribute to new jobs and new opportunities in Sweden,” says Catharina ElmsÃ¤ter-SvÃ¤rd, the Swedish Minister for Infrastructure.
As well as testing and proving the technology, the Drive Me project will also help to define future city planning and infrastructure initiatives.
The cars that will be used in the test will be fully autonomous in that the vehicles will be able to handle all driving functions, including parking, but the driver will still be expected to step in to take control in the event of a technical issue or when manual input is needed.