Volvo just unveiled plans for the world’s first large-scale trial of self-driving cars. The ‘Drive Me’ project will see 100 autonomous vehicles take to the streets of Gothenburg, Sweden in 2017. The cars will traverse 30 miles of public roads while encountering heavy commuter traffic, pedestrians and shifting highway conditions. While “non-drivers” will be behind the wheel during standard trips, Volvo anticipates that the cars will be able to seek out a parking spot, and park without the presence of a driver.
The $76.2 million pilot project is a collaboration between Volvo, the Swedish Transport Administration, the Swedish Transport Agency, Lindholmen Science Park and the City of Gothenburg, and it’s expected to place Sweden at the fore of autonomous driving technology and infrastructure development. While other companies, most notably Google, Toyota and Mercedes have been developing their own self-driving systems, tests on public roads have so far been limited to a small number of vehicles.
Volvo’s autonomous cars will travel at a maximum speed of 70 kilometers per hour (43.5 miles per hour), and will have specially trained “non-drivers” behind the wheel who will be able to assume control of the vehicle when needed. According to Physorg, the autonomous technology features 360-degree cameras, GPS and additional sensors to act as the “eyes and ears” of the vehicle, enabling the car to operate in a fully automated way—even parking itself after the driver has exited the vehicle.
By launching a test of autonomous vehicles on this scale, Volvo hopes to demonstrate the safety and efficiency of self-driving cars. (Part of their overall goal is that no one be killed or seriously injured in any of their cars by 2020.) Speaking to the Telegraph, Håkan Samuelsson, President and CEO of the Volvo Car Group explained “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… 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.”