Volvo Cars presents a unique, complete system solution that makes it possible to integrate self-driving cars into real traffic – with ordinary people in the driver’s seat.
“We are entering uncharted territory in the field of autonomous driving,” says Dr Peter Mertens, Senior Vice President Research and Development of Volvo Car Group. “Taking the exciting step to a public pilot, with the ambition to enable ordinary people to sit behind the wheel in normal traffic on public roads, has never been done before.”
As the Drive Me project enters its second year, Volvo Cars is moving rapidly towards the aim of placing 100 self-driving cars in the hands of customers on selected roads around Gothenburg by 2017. The key to making this unprecedented leap is a complex network of sensors, cloud-based positioning systems and intelligent braking and steering technologies.
“Autonomous driving will fundamentally change the way we look at driving. In the future, you will be able to choose between autonomous and active driving,” says Dr Mertens. “This transforms everyday commuting from lost time to quality time, opening up new opportunities for work and pleasure.”
Reliable and robust
Volvo Cars’ Autopilot system is designed to be reliable enough to allow the car to take over every aspect of driving in autonomous mode. The main challenge is to design an Autopilot that is robust for traffic scenarios as well as for technical faults that may occur. It cannot be expected that the driver is ready to suddenly intervene in a critical situation. Initially, the cars will drive autonomously on selected roads with suitable conditions, for example without oncoming traffic, cyclists and pedestrians.
“Making this complex system 99 per cent reliable is not good enough. You need to get much closer to 100 per cent before you can let self-driving cars mix with other road users,” says Dr Erik Coelingh, Technical Specialist at Volvo Cars. “Here, we have a similar approach to that of the aircraft industry. Backup systems will ensure that Autopilot will continue to function safely, also if an element of the system were to become disabled.”
Handles complicated scenarios
On the road, the complete technology solution shall handle even the most complicated scenarios, from smooth commuting to heavy traffic and emergency situations.
“Just as good drivers would, potentially critical situations are approached with sensible caution. In a real emergency, however, the car reacts faster than most humans,” says Erik Coelingh.
When autonomous driving is no longer available – due to exceptional weather conditions, technical malfunction or the end of the route has been reached – the driver is prompted to take over again. If the driver does not take over in time, the car will bring itself to a safe place to stop.
“Developing a complete technological solution for self-driving cars is a major step. Once the public pilot is up and running, it will provide us with valuable knowledge about implementing self-driving cars in the traffic environment, and help us explore how they can contribute to sustainable mobility,” says Erik Coelingh.