Volvo's first autonomous car for private public use. Image: Newspress/Volvo Cars
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Volvo goes ‘public’ with autonomous-car testing

  • Start of real-world autonomous testing
  • Ordinary families to use full-auto XC90
  • First unit ready for mystery household
Volvo's first autonomous car for private public use. Image: Newspress/Volvo Cars
IN AT THE START: Erik Coelingh, a technical leader at Volvo, with the first autonomous car for private public use. Image: Newspress/Volvo Cars

GOTHENBURG, Sweden – Volvo Cars has officially launched Drive Me, describing it as “the world’s most ambitious and advanced public autonomous driving experiment” and presenting an autonomous Volvo XC90 SUV as the first unit..

The car was completed in Volvo’s special plant in Torslanda in early September 2016, the first in a series of such cars that will eventually be handed to normal families in Gothenburg to be driven on public roads.

Volvo believes the introduction of self-driving technology promises to reduce road crashes, de-congest highways, reduce pollution and allow drivers to use their “on road” time more valuably.

Volvo's first autonomous car for private public use. Image: Newspress/Volvo Cars
BRAINS BEHIND THE BRAIN: Technical guy at Volvo Sweden, Eric Coelingh, with the car’s ‘black box’. Image: Newspress/Volvo Cars

Volvo currently offers a semi-autonomous functionality, called Pilot Assist, on its 90 series cars. Pilot Assist gives gentle steering input to keep its host car aligned within lane markings at up to 130km/h without the need to follow another car. Drive Me cars will add hands-off and feet-off capability in special autonomous drive zones around Gothenburg using what Volvo calls an Autonomous Driving Brain.

Volvo started the car crash-protection concept back in 1959 with the first three-point crash restraint belt. Now autonomous driving – in which the car essentially takes itself from point to point under computer control – aims to complete the automakers aim that nobody will be seriously injured or killed in a new Volvo by the year 2020.

WATCH THE car come off the production line.

Now Volvo aims to collect feedback from real customers who will use the cars in their everyday lives to help with fine-tuning the systems ahead of their projected commercial introduction around 2021.

Erik Coelingh, a technical leader at Volvo, said as the final touches were added to the autonomous Volvo XC90 SUV: “This is an important milestone for Drive Me. Customers and engineers look at cars differently – we are looking forward to learning how they use such cars in their daily lives.”

READ MORE Volvo features on Carman’s Corner

Each Drive Me autonomous car, Volvo emphasised, will undergo rigorous testing before being handed over to a family participating in the Drive Me pilot.

A similar project will be launched in London in 2017 year, others from interested cities in China in coming years.

Volvo also actively engages in strategic partnerships in the area of autonomous drive technology. In August 2016 it launched a partnership with ride-sharing company Uber to jointly develop the next generation of autonomous cars.

Volvo's first autonomous car for private public use. Image: Newspress/Volvo Cars
MAGIC BOX: Part of the complicated computer system responsible for taking over from a human driver. – Volvo’s first autonomous car for private public use. Image: Newspress/Volvo Cars

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