Autonomous driving meets public roadways in Swedish pilot

Wed, 2013-12-04 06:00 -- Liz Enbysk

We don't expect to see self-driving vehicles zipping down public roadways next to us anytime soon. But a pilot scheduled to get under way in Gothenburg, Sweden next year may be the first large-scale look we get at the future of autonomous vehicles.

The joint initiative between Volvo Car Group, the Swedish Transport Administration, the Swedish Transport Agency, Lindholmen Science Park and the City of Gothenburg will see 100 of Volvo's self-driving cars sharing public roadways in everyday driving conditions. The self-driving cars in the pilot will have sensors that keep track of the car and the surrounding environment. Cars will also be connected to a cloud to get map data and other information.

According to the press release which appears below, the goal of the "Drive Me" Project is to demonstrate societal benefits of autonomous driving – and Volvo thinks there are a number of them -- from reducing emissions and improving air quality to enhancing traffic safety.

Volvo Car Group initiates a world unique Swedish pilot project with self-driving cars on public roads

Stockholm, Sweden, December 2, 2013/PRNewswire/— Volvo Cars will play a leading role in the world’s first large-scale autonomous driving pilot project in which 100 self-driving Volvo cars will use public roads in everyday driving conditions around the Swedish city of Gothenburg.

The ground-breaking project ‘Drive Me – Self-driving cars for sustainable mobility’ is a joint initiative between Volvo Car Group, the Swedish Transport Administration, the Swedish Transport Agency, Lindholmen Science Park and the City of Gothenburg. Project ‘Drive Me’ is endorsed by the Swedish Government.

The aim is to pinpoint the societal benefits of autonomous driving and position Sweden and Volvo Cars as leaders in the development of future mobility.

“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. “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.”

The pilot will involve self-driving cars using approximately 50 kilometres of selected roads in and around Gothenburg. These roads are typical commuter arteries and include motorway conditions and frequent queues. The project also includes fully automated parking, without a driver in the car.

‘Drive Me’ will commence in 2014 and the first cars are expected to be on the roads in Gothenburg by 2017.

Joining forces

Recognising that growing urbanisation continues to put pressure on transport systems in and around urban areas all over the world, ‘Drive Me’ addresses the need to join forces in the quest for a sustainable society and mobility.

“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 closer to even safer traffic and an improved environment. It will also contribute to new jobs and new opportunities in Sweden,” says Catharina Elmsäter-Svärd, the Swedish Minister for Infrastructure.

Self-driving vehicles can contribute to reducing infrastructure investments and enrich city life in other ways, such as by reducing emissions, and improving air quality and traffic safety.

Individual benefits

Autonomous driving will fundamentally change the way we look at driving cars, as you can plan your drive with a mix of autonomous and active driving. This makes the journey more time-efficient. You can safely interact via phone or tablets or simply choose to relax.

“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.

The 100 Volvo cars will be new models developed on the upcoming Scalable Product Architecture (SPA), which is prepared for the continuous introduction of new support and safety systems all the way to technologies that enable highly autonomous drive. First out will be the all-new Volvo XC90, which will be introduced in 2014.