Volvo's contribution to the self-driving future:
Swedish car producer Volvo is known for two things: technology and safety. Volvo invented the three-point safety belt and the pedestrian airbag. Its last generation XC90 SUV only caused one lethal accident in Sweden between 2009 and 2012 in Sweden. And none in the U.S. Being perceived as tech smart and safe are two highly attractive qualities when striving to become the main self-driving salesman.
And yes, in the field of autonomous driving Volvo is at the top of their game. Under the motto ‘Nobody should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo by 2020’ it plans to release the first Volvo self-driving car.’ The Swedish company is improving customer experience and getting politically involved. Its IntelliSafe Autopilot does an amazing job combining Volvo’s semi-driverless technologies and project DriveMe will revolutionize the self-driving industry, becoming “the first large scale-long term consumer test”.
The last decade Volvo has successfully integrated Adaptive cruise control, a Park Assist Pilot, Driver Alert Control, Pedestrian and Cyclist detection with auto brake, a Blind Spot Information System and an Auto intersection brake. Some of these were brought to the market by Volvo as a first and were later combined as the IntelliSafe Autopilot. As semi-autonomous driving goes, it one of the most reliable systems out there. First version were implemented in the XC90, which there operated only up to 30 mph, and later in the S90, capable of operating at up to 80 mph.
Volvo’s counts a great deal on acquired hardware. The IntelliSafe system is based on a forward-looking radar laser from Delphi with a 500 foot range and the newest Mobileye 5-series 360-degree view camera. On top of that there are 12 ultrasonic sensors to detect close range objects. An Nvidia Drive PX2 covers the deep learning process and maps are delivered by and to Volvo’s personal cloud system and high-performance GPS. And a new partnership with TomTom will make sure Volvo gets their digital NDS Maps that deliver incremental real-time map updates.
Concept 26 shows what Volvo expects customer needs to be in the driverless era. There are three modes and they are all about freedom: ‘Drive’ - when the driver is fully engaged in the act of driving, ‘Create’ – when the seat moves away from the wheel, giving the driver space to make a call, write an email or watch a movie and ‘Relax’ – when the seat reclines and the driver can simply enjoy the journey.
This means that, in comparison to for example Google, Volvo still foresees the ability of a person driving a car in the future. Even with a fully autonomous possibility, Volvo builds in the option to take the wheel. Other car manufacturers like for example Ford, do not believe this option assures driver safety 100%. This also means there is no place for self-driving taxi fleets in the future, because Volvo obviously believes car ownership will stick. A car is an extension of yourself, different travel go with different needs…
The first company to bring level 4 autonomous driving to the consumer is Volvo. Project Drive Me will be launched in 2017, when a select amount of citizens in Gothemburg, Sweden will get to ‘test’ an XC90 equipped with the latest version of IntelliSafe. Level 4 means that no attention to the road is needed. The only action expected of a driver is putting in the destination address and the car will take care of the rest, regardless the traffic situation. This is a noticeable difference with for example Tesla’s Autopilot, which requires constant driver awareness. Phase 1: A hundred cars will be divided in Gothemburg in 2017. Phase 2 will move project Drive Me to the UK, where again one hundred cars will be tested in London, hopefully in the same year. A third testing phase will take place in China, with the place and date still on hold.
With project Drive Me, Volvo is taking a giant leap in the unknown. Level 4 autonomous driving will no longer be a concept, but will bring the technology and its benefits to the real world. To real people. With this project Volvo is looking to answers questions like ‘How can you deal with the unpredictability of other road users? Or: ‘Is the technology ready to be put in the hands of the consumer?’ And: ‘Are consumers ready for a Volvo self-driving car?’
Coalition for Safer Streets
Lucky for the test subjects Volvo already stated in 2015 that it takes full responsibility for any accident their driverless cars may cause. Sweden has one of the most adaptive and liberal governments in the world, which makes it easy to make/change autonomous car laws, but this decision was initially made to speed up regulations in the United States.
In the US laws relating to autonomous driving are state-specific. This means that for example automated vehicles without steering wheels, pedals or other ways for a person to take control of a car are illegal in some states. This absence of one set of rules means car makers cannot conduct credible tests to develop cars that meet all the different guidelines. Therefor Volvo teamed up with Ford, Google, Uber and Lyft as the Coalition for Safer Streets to put pressure on U.S. regulators to unanimously come to a solution.