December 4, 2013

Volvo Starts Self-Driving Car Test In Sweden

Enid Burns for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

Volvo is pulling up to the worldwide competition of self-driving vehicles, or autonomous cars. The Swedish-based (and Chinese-owned) auto manufacturer began a large-scale autonomous driving project, involving 100 self-driving Volvo cars on public roads. Tests will be conducted during everyday driving conditions around the Swedish city of Gothenburg.

The company is naming the test "Drive Me -- Self-driving cars for sustainable mobility," or for short, the "Drive Me" project. Drive Me is a joint project between Volvo Car Group, the Swedish Transport Administration, the Swedish Transport Agency, Lindholmen Science Park and the City of Gothenberg. The project also earned an endorsement from the Swedish government to put self-driving cars on the road.

“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,” says Håkan Samuelsson, President and CEO of Volvo Car Group, in a corporate statement. “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.”

For the Drive Me project, cars will drive on approximately 50 kilometers, or 30 miles, of select roads in and around Gothenberg. The roads are heavily traveled by commuters and include motorway conditions and traffic.

“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 ‘harbour’ if the driver for any reason is unable to regain control,” explains Erik Coelingh, Technical Specialist at Volvo Car Group, in a corporate statement.

The Drive Me project will focus on five key areas when it is conducted in 2014:

  • 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.
  • How surrounding drivers interact smoothly with a self-driving car.

Google has conducted extensive testing on autonomous cars. Google is not the only company conducting such tests. Auto manufacturers including Audi, Toyota and Lexus have conducted tests on self-driving cars.

In addition to driving, parking will also be fully automated. Drivers can exit the vehicle once a vacant spot is found, ABC News reports.

Autonomous driving requires more testing before becoming a legal and technical possibility in most countries. Car manufacturers are coming closer to autonomous driving by adding automated features through the use of technological innovations such as cameras and computers that can carry out certain actions. Some automated actions include parallel parking and drift detection, which alerts the driver if the car appears to be drifting out of a lane or off the road.

Volvo believes autonomous cars will provide individual benefits. Such consumer benefits include the ability to plan a drive with a mix of autonomous and active driving, making a journey more efficient. The auto manufacturer believes self-driving cars will provide more efficient time management behind the wheel.

“The self-driving technology used in the pilot allows you to hand over the driving to the car when the circumstances are appropriate,” says Håkan Samuelsson.