Is it true that Volvo is developing a self-driving car? How could this possibly be safe?
Yes it is true! An international press conference was just held in Sweden last Thursday with journalists participating from all over the globe, including the U.S. They announced they are working on a Volvo XC-90 that will make it possible to integrate self-driving or autonomous driving cars in real traffic – with ordinary people behind the wheel. But it still needs a lot of development. As most people know, Volvo is the world leader in automotive safety and therefore, the product will not be release to the general public until 2020, give or take a couple of years.
The pilot project is called “Drive Me” and Volvo will choose 100 people in 2017 to test these XC-90 vehicles in real traffic in Sweden initially. The drivers will need to be sitting in the driver’s seat and alert and sober, and be ready to take over at any time, even after the vehicles are marketed to consumers. The thought is that drivers will be able to do other things while at the wheel, especially during long distances or highway commutes, but they must be ready to take over at any time. (They don’t recommend holding up a newspaper and reading while in the driver’s seat.)
The goal is to make them feasible, affordable and to drive safer than the safest drivers in order to prevent accidents. The technology is so exciting! The technology includes 3-D maps more advanced than any GPS system that can sense other vehicles, debris, guardrails and the like.
This XC-90 prototype will combine multiple cameras with seven radar sensors and i-cloud technology and will even include a “black box” that only the driver can access. If there is ever an accident in these vehicles, they will be able to determine the cause, similar to that in an airplane from the flight recorder. Cameras will have various horizontal views to detect bicyclists and pedestrians and will be able to react if another vehicles cuts in to the lane. They will test it in night darkness, snow and rain. But they will always recommend in severe weather, such as snow storms, that the driver take over. It will have advanced technology in the brake and steering system, with back-up solutions to prevent accidents. The main reason they are investing in this technology is, first and foremost, to prevent accidents, but another important benefit of the Drive Me project will include improved fuel economy.
At the Swedish press conference, the Volvo executive said, “We think the U.S. market is an interesting market for autonomous drive. The customer demand is high” from commuters in big cities. They hope it then becomes a benefit in all traffic conditions. The interior design features, information and entertainment systems will initially be very similar to what the vehicle looks like now and the same maintenance will be required. When these vehicles do arrive, drivers will always be able to choose the automatic feature or drive in the standard manner.
We will keep you posted on this when the latest version of the XC-90 will be here at Jaffarian Volvo. With all of its safety features, this is an exciting time to be driving a Volvo!
Drive safely, stay warm and know that March is right around the corner.
P.S. Thanks for the questions you’re sending in. If you don’t want to wait for your question to be answered in an Ask Gary column, please email me at email@example.com or invite you all to listen to my segment with John Paul, better known as the “Car Doctor” on WROL 950 AM – live this Saturday at 9 a.m.