“Most ambitious” trial to date will see Volvo XC-90 vehicles drive themselves around the capital
Volvo is to hold a major trial of self-driving cars in London, bringing around a hundred specially-built XC-90 vehicles to the capital’s streets.
The Drive Me London program follows a similar scheme in Volvo’s home city of Gothenburg in Sweden and the company hopes the test, starting in 2017, will help it gather even more knowledge.
“We want to understand how UK customers use and appreciate self-driving technology in London traffic,” Volvo’s senior technical leader of safety and driver support technologies at Volvo Cars Erik Coelingh told TechWeekEurope.
“The London trial will give us an idea of what exceptional situations will occur in UK traffic but also what the preferences are of UK customers.”
The trial will target some of the busiest commuting routes in London, as such journeys are cited as the most frustrating and boring by drivers, according to Coelingh. Customers can activate autopilot whenever they want, leaving them free to spend more time “reading, eating, or whatever they want, and the car can take care of all traffic scenarios that may occur.”
Volvo hopes the trial will last for as long as possible so it can collect as much real-world data as it can.
“Reality is important – we don’t design the technology for the sake of it, it’s about how do we bring the benefits of self-driving cars to real people,” Coelingh said.
The trial will build on the insights gained from the Gotehenburg pilot, allowing Volvo to learn how self-driving cars can contribute to a sustainable road driving system in areas like traffic safety, traffic efficiency, and fuel economy.
“We’re still very much learning, and everything we learn will be used in the future,” he said.
Data from the trial will be used to develop self-driving cars that are suitable for real world driving conditions, rather than the more unrealistic conditions found on test tracks. Motoring specialists Thatcham Research providing the technical data analysis and any professional test drivers needed as part of the trial.
Looking ahead, Volvo hopes that the findings of the trial will allow the company to push forward with its research, as it has already had “good dialogue” with the UK government, Transport for London (TfL) and Highways England regarding a future roll-out of the technology in the near future, although Coelingh is reluctant to name a specific date.
“We want a good co-operation with authorities on this,” he says, “We don’t have all the answers, but if we sit together with academia, with government, we can better understand”.