Plenty of automotive companies have announced plans to have an autonomous car on the roads at the start of the next decade, but Volvo went a step further and said no human supervision will be needed for its self-driving vehicle.
“The thing that is unique is that we are trying to deploy the technology in reality. And when I say that, I mean self-driving cars that allow drivers to do something else behind the steering wheel,” said Erik Coelingh, senior technical leader for driver support technologies, to Tech Insider.
Volvo essentially wants to reach Level 5 autonomy, or completely driverless. Currently, a few cars are testing Level 3 (hands-off) technologies, like Tesla’s AutoPilot or Ford’s self-parking, but Level 4 (mind-off) and Level 5 are still off-limits on all public roads.
To prepare for this autonomous future, Volvo plans to launch a program next year, called DriveMe. It will give 100 normal customers the chance to drive an autonomous car in Gothenburg, Sweden, London, and select cities in China. This program will come on top of tests in China and Sweden, which are already underway.
DriveMe takes Volvo to next level
“What is unique with DriveMe, is that we are not only building a concept car or doing demos, we are really doing research to help us understand how we can bring self-driving cars to the real world, to public roads with ordinary customers behind the wheel,” said Coelingh. “And by accomplishing that objective, we will learn about the reality of self-driving cars, that it’s not just a fantasy. We will learn about technology, we will learn about the human factors, and how self-driving cars will impact society.”
Volvo also plans to add a semi-autonomous system to select cars in 2017, similar to Tesla’s AutoPilot. This public testing has been invaluable to Tesla, providing the company over one million miles of autonomous driving data to analyze.
Another plus for Volvo is the U.K.’s recent legalization of autonomous cars on public roads. Announced in the Queen’s Speech, the new legislation allows autonomous car owners to apply for insurance and test self-driving features in the country.