Volvo autonomous cars might show up on the market sooner than anyone would have thought. We’ve seen these autonomous cars in action at the CES 2015 conference and were impressed by what they can do, although there are still improvements to be made. Now, it seems the automaker is speeding up their plans and they say that the Volvo autonomous car will go on sale as early as 2017. These vehicles have been dubbed the Volvo Drive Me cars, which is a cute name in my opinion, although it doesn’t really reflect the self-driving nature of the vehicles, rather the pull it has on people to actually drive it. Anyway, we’re glad to hear that the company will actually start selling these cars in less than two years time.
According to Cnet, the Swedish car maker plans to have 100 Volvo autonomous car units on the roads by the time we start celebrating New Years Eve in 2017. That’s quite a goal the company has set and we’re wondering if they are going to be able to keep that promise, as there is a lot involved in developing the systems controlling self-driving cars. The company has offered up a few disclaimers about the cars, though, stating that they will only be available in Gothenberg, Sweden for starters. Moreover, Volvo autonomous cars will still require moderate user (or driver) interaction, as they can’t actually drive themselves onto the freeways (which are great in Sweden). If weather conditions aren’t optimal, the self-driving car will also ask the driver to intervene. The good news is that it you’re on the freeway, stuck in some sort of traffic jam, you will be able to sit back and relax because the Volvo autonomous car will take over. I wonder if it will use its artificial voice to shout at slow-pokes driving in the fast lane. Hah, that’s a very funny thought.
The principle behind Volvo’s autonomous cars hasn’t changed much compared to their standard models, as most of the technology and sensors implemented into the car are already readily available in their other models, too. The computers within the self-driving cars are what sets these vehicles apart from the rest. And a few extra-sensors that function as the eyes and fingers of the Volvo autonomous car. These sensors encompass a sonar, radar, laser scanners and a 360 degree camera-setup that will allow the car to correctly map and understand its surroundings. The computers act as aggregators of all the information gathered by the cameras and sensors and corroborate the data with traffic control information obtained wirelessly by the car itself.
The interesting part of the Volvo autonomous car is that it seems to be hooked up to Gothenberg in a way in which it can receive information directly from official sources. IF that doesn’t sound interesting, you should know that Gothenberg will be able to monitor these self-driving vehicles while they’re cruising the city and actually revoke the car’s “rights”. That means that in case of emergency or inappropriate driving conditions, Gothenberg will alert the driver that the autonomous vehicle is no longer fit for driving and that the human should take over. If they don’t take over (maybe busy on the back seat?), then the vehicle will pull itself over to the side of the road until the owner can take control. That’s funny, interesting and a very nice solution to the problem of unforeseen circumstances intervening with the autonomous car’s ability to navigate.
According to Cnet, Volvo is planning on enacting contracts involving their self-driving cars with other cities in Sweden, before expanding even more. At least Gothenberg will most likely be the first city in the world to have 100 self-driving cars linked to the city’s cyber infrastructure. As Google, and reportedly Apple, are all working on their own electric and autonomous vehicles, Volvo seems to be most ahead when it comes to progress. We’re curious to see what kind of software implementation the Drive Me program will have and how it will evolve over time. At least we know that by the end of 2017, Gothenberg should have a sizable amount of Volvo autonomous car units on the streets.