Volvo Cars has started developing its autonomous drive cars, with help from Swedish families who will test them on the public roads of Gothenburg and provide feedback.
The first two families, the Hains and the Simonovskis, both from the Gothenburg area, have now received the Volvo XC90 SUVs with which they will support the ‘Drive Me’ project. Three more families will follow early next year and over the next four years, up to 100 people will be involved in the Drive Me program. Both families will contribute to the autonomous vehicle (AV) development program, with invaluable data, by allowing engineers at the company to monitor their everyday use and interaction with the car, as they drive to work, take their children to school or go shopping.
Volvo plans to have a fully autonomous car commercially available by 2021, and the data derived from Drive Me will play a crucial role in its development. Drive Me will involve real customers testing the different stages of driver assisted and eventually fully autonomous technology. The Hains and the Simonovskis have received XC90s fitted with Volvo’s latest driver assistance technology, as well as an array of cameras and sensors to monitor their behavior and provide the car with information on its surroundings.
During these first stages, the families will keep their hands on the steering wheel and supervise the driving at all times when using their cars. But, over time, all participants in the Drive Me project will gradually be introduced to more advanced assisted driving cars, after receiving special training. Even then, testing these more advanced cars will initially take place in controlled environments with supervision from a Volvo safety expert. The company says no technology will ever be introduced if there is any question over its safety.
“Drive Me is an important research project for us,” said Henrik Green, senior vice president for Volvo’s R&D department. “We expect to learn a lot from engaging these families, and will use their experiences to shape the development of our autonomous driving technology, so that by 2021 we can offer our customers a fully autonomous car.”