Autonomous vehicles are increasingly being tested on public roads around the globe, including Nissan in Japan and Google here in the US, and now Volvo is preparing to test its own self-driving cars on the streets of Sweden. In conjunction with the state government, Volvo's Drive Me project kicks off next year, starting with the development of customer research and infrastructure technology before setting 100 self-driving cars loose on the streets of Gothenburg in 2017.

These 100 cars will be in the hands of customers, and the tests will help Volvo and the Swedish government track varying aspects of self-driving cars including economic benefits, consumer confidence, traffic flow and passenger safety. The technology being developed by Volvo uses not only on-board radar and sensors but also map data gathered from the cloud, and it controls all driving systems including the brakes, throttle and steering. Drivers can engage and disengage the car's autonomous drive mode by pushing a button on the steering wheel, and the technology will also allow for a self-parking feature.

While the cars shown in this demo are S60 models, the test vehicles will be based on Volvo's upcoming Scalable Product Architecture (SPA), which underpins future models like the next-gen Volvo XC90. Scroll down for a video and press release marking the announcement.

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Volvo Car Group initiates world unique Swedish pilot project with self-driving cars on public roads

Volvo Cars will play a leading role in the world's first large-scale autonomous driving pilot project in which 100 self-driving Volvo cars will use public roads in everyday driving conditions around the Swedish city of Gothenburg.

The ground-breaking project 'Drive Me – Self-driving cars for sustainable mobility' is a joint initiative between Volvo Car Group, the Swedish Transport Administration, the Swedish Transport Agency, Lindholmen Science Park and the City of Gothenburg.

The 'Drive Me' project is endorsed by the Swedish Government. The aim is to pinpoint the societal benefits of autonomous driving and position Sweden and Volvo Cars as leaders in the development of future mobility.
Volvo Car Group initiates world unique Swedish pilot project with self-driving cars on public roads
"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," says Håkan Samuelsson, President and CEO of Volvo Car Group. "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."

The pilot will involve self-driving cars using approximately 50 kilometres of selected roads in and around Gothenburg. These roads are typical commuter arteries and include motorway conditions and frequent queues.

"Our aim is for the car to be able to handle all possible traffic scenarios by itself, including leaving the traffic flow and finding a safe 'harbour' if the driver for any reason is unable to regain control," explains Erik Coelingh, Technical Specialist at Volvo Car Group.

Focus areas
The 'Drive Me' project will focus on a number of areas, such as:
How autonomous vehicles bring societal and economic benefits by improving traffic efficiency, the traffic environment and road safety
Infrastructure requirements for autonomous driving
Typical traffic situations suitable for autonomous vehicles
Customers' confidence in autonomous vehicles
How surrounding drivers interact smoothly with a self-driving car
The project will commence in 2014 with customer research and technology development, as well as the development of a user interface and cloud functionality. The first cars are expected to be on the roads in Gothenburg by 2017.
Volvo Car Group initiates a world unique Swedish pilot project with self-driving cars on public roads
Joining forces
Recognising that growing urbanisation continues to put pressure on transport systems in and around urban areas all over the world, 'Drive Me' addresses the need to join forces in the quest to develop a sustainable society and mobility.

"The public pilot will provide us with a valuable insight into the societal benefits of making autonomous vehicles a natural part of the traffic environment. Smart vehicles are part of the solution, but a broad societal approach is also necessary to offer sustainable personal mobility in the future. We believe that this cross-functional co-operation can give this development a boost," says Erik Coelingh.

Unique teamwork
"Sweden has developed unique co-operation between the authorities, the industry and the academic community. This has resulted in a world-leading position in traffic safety. Autonomous vehicles and a smarter infrastructure will bring us another step towards even safer traffic and an improved environment. It will also contribute to new jobs and new opportunities in Sweden," says Catharina Elmsäter-Svärd, the Swedish Minister for Infrastructure.

Enriching city life
The 'Drive Me' project will help define the role of self-driving vehicles in future city planning. By paving the way for more efficient land use they can contribute to reducing infrastructure investments. Self-driving vehicles can also enrich city life in other ways, such as by lowering emissions and thus improving air quality and traffic safety.

Making Gothenburg the arena for this unique public pilot is a strong demonstration of the city's aim to pioneer the development of efficient, clean and safe urban transportation systems.

Individual benefits
Autonomous driving will give significant consumer benefits. It will fundamentally change the way we look at driving cars. As a driver in the future, you will be able to plan your drive with a mix of autonomous and active driving, making your daily journey more efficient.

Autonomous driving will pave the way for more efficient time-management behind the wheel. You will be able to interact safely via phone or tablets or simply choose to relax.

"The self-driving technology used in the pilot allows you to hand over the driving to the car when the circumstances are appropriate," says Håkan Samuelsson.
Volvo Car Group initiates world unique Swedish pilot project with self-driving cars on public roads
Prepared for autonomous drive
The vehicles in the pilot project are defined as Highly Autonomous Cars, according to the official definition by the Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt) in Germany. In practical terms this means that the responsibility is handed over to the vehicle, which can handle all driving functions at the driver's discretion. The driver is expected to be available for occasional control but with a sufficiently comfortable transition time.

The 100 Volvo cars driven by customers will be new models developed on the company's upcoming Scalable Product Architecture (SPA). The architecture is prepared for the continuous introduction of new support and safety systems all the way to technologies that enable highly autonomous drive. The first SPA model will be the all-new Volvo XC90, which will be introduced in 2014.

Autonomous parking included
The project also includes fully automated parking, without a driver in the car. This allows the driver to walk away from the car at the parking entrance while the vehicle finds a vacant spot and parks by itself.

"Our approach is based on the principle that autonomously driven cars must be able to move safely in environments with non-autonomous vehicles and unprotected road users," says Erik Coelingh.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      Seal Rchin
      • 1 Year Ago
      Really shocked that Japanese companies are not all over this tech. These cars are perfect for aging population, just speak your destination and get there and back in a safe way. These self driving cars will give senior citizens and their care takers so much more freedom and independence. Right now elderly have to ask and wait until their children can drive them to the supermarket and it is not convenient for anyone involved, with these cars senior citizens will be able to go where they want (50's themed party) whenever they want (fresh fruits and veggies every day).
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Seal Rchin
        One downside would be more cars on the roads.
          • 1 Year Ago
          But fewer cars overall maybe. I imagine that if these cars become more mainstream that the need to actually own a car vs. "Hire" one one on an as needed basis will decrease. That would be a huge improvement for cities. It might be a net negative for suburbs and the countryside (where I suspect automobile ownership will still remain high for quite a while still). Benefits: more electric cars because they can go off and recharge themselves and a different one will pick the next person up. No more parking hassles (and all that wasted space used for parking will go away) because these things can head out three or five blocks and park themselves in tight lots or parking structures. Less expense as you only pay for a car for when you need it (vs. having to own a good quality car that sits around 95 percent of the time depreciating) Fewer traffic jams because the cars will be so much more efficient. Fewer accidents. More freedom for those who currently are unable to drive. Less space wasted on wide roads because we don't need street side parking or turn lanes or multiple lanes or all that extra space for wide lanes. Cities can have wider sidewalks and more vibrant street life. Fewer cars overall because instead of everyone owning a couple of cars per family that only get used a tiny fraction the day, fewer cars will able to serve a larger population. Disadvantages: Folks in less dense areas will find that their cars (if fully automated) will be quite a bit more expensive - and it will still make sense for them to own for quite a while I suspect. Promotes even more suburban sprawl because if you can work or sleep during your commute why live near work or transit? Additional loss of privacy. Loss of transit oriented jobs. Overall it is a net positive I think, but it will be a huge change and there will be unexpected consequences. Still looking forward to it. I'll dump my sensible car and spend my car money on a 64 Alfa gt.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Seal Rchin
        have you not heard of Nissan?
      • 1 Year Ago
      For all the Mums and Dads who do half a dozen school runs every day, being able to tell your car to "Go Fetch" and let it drive itself there and back has its pluses.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Self driving cars are perfect for the US where drivers are so dumb they can't even memorize a five speed shift pattern!
      • 1 Year Ago
      So in the future, stealing cars will only require a person to hack into your car's id code and then program it to drive itself to you. Car Owner: My car has been stolen Police: we found it...well only the gps that was super glued to the rear view mirror. The rest of the car was gone.
      • 1 Year Ago