Drive Me Project takes a step towards placing everyday motorists behind the wheel of autonomous vehicles.
Benefits of autonomous vehicles
Volvo has produced its first, fully autonomous, vehicle to be tested by the public on the streets of Gothenburg, Sweden. It is part of the Drive Me Project which is a venture that brings together the public sector, private sector and academia. Its purpose is to better understand the possible benefits of such cars.
The manufacturer considers these to be:
- fewer collisions (autonomous vehicles cannot be distracted, inpatient or tired, for example);
- less congestion (might manoeuvre in a more efficient manner);
- less pollution (possible benefit of less congestion);
- better use of time (motorists can work rather than drive).
Volvo autonomous features
The Volvo XC90 is a large, sports-utility, vehicle and the platform to which the manufacturer fitted autonomous technology. Vehicle “001” has a range of special systems, in fact. At its core is the autonomous driving brain which is – in simple terms – a computer stored in the boot that interprets signals from a range of sensors.
Consider the front of the vehicle, for example. Radar and camera systems sit behind the windscreen, a camera peeps through a badge on the grille, and there is a laser sensor within the lower section of the grille. These components in combination can “detect anything” that might cross the car's path, the manufacturer argued.
Furthermore, each wing mirror has a camera that looks backwards to watch for (say) cars and motorcycles, plus a second camera that looks down at any lane markings. The autonomous driving brain interprets data from these systems then chooses how to steer, brake and accelerate in a “safe and comfortable” manner, Volvo confirmed.
Private and public tests
The Volvo XC90 has brilliant, white, paintwork and “001” on the sides to emphasise its significance. It now faces a series of tests via the manufacturer's engineers to confirm that its autonomous systems work reliably. Once proven, the manufacturer passes the keys to possible future customers for real-world, real-road, tests.
Volvo explained: “It is this customer focussed approach that sets Drive Me apart from other autonomous driving experiments. Instead of relying purely on the research of its own engineers, Volvo aims to collect feedback and input from real customers using these autonomous cars in their everyday lives.”
The manufacturer continued: “Volvo aims to further fine-tune its autonomous driving technologies and make its offering as relevant as possible to customers ahead of a commercial introduction, around 2021.”
Drive Me Project set to expand
The Drive Me Project looks set to expand to other countries in the relatively near future. London in 2017, for example. The motor manufacturer is also considering bids from various cities in China.