Drive Me gets underway

Drive Me, the project referred to as the world’s most ambitious and advanced public autonomous driving experiment, has got underway in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Volvo Cars has officially kicked off the programme with production of the very first autonomous car that will be used. The autonomous Volvo XC90 SUV was finalised in Volvo Cars’ special manufacturing facility in Torslanda last week, and is the first in a series of autonomous cars that will eventually be handed to real families in Gothenburg to be driven on public roads.

Volvo currently offers a semi-autonomous functionality called Pilot Assist on its 90 series cars. Pilot Assist gives gentle steering inputs to keep the car properly aligned within lane markings up to 80 mph without the need to follow another car. The Drive Me cars will add hands-off and feet-off capability in special autonomous drive zones around Gothenburg, powered by what Volvo calls the Autonomous Driving Brain.

The Swedish company, whose name has been synonymous with automotive safety ever since it invented the three-point seat belt in 1959, is pioneering the development of autonomous driving systems as part of its vision that no one will be seriously injured or killed in a new Volvo by the year 2020.

Volvo aims to collect feedback and input from real customers using these autonomous cars in their everyday lives.

‘This is an important milestone for the Drive Me project,’ said Erik Coelingh, senior technical leader Active Safety at Volvo Cars. ‘Customers look at their cars differently than us engineers, so we are looking forward to learn how they use these cars in their daily lives and what feedback they will give us.’

After rolling off the production line, the Drive Me customer cars will undergo a rigorous testing phase to ensure that the cars’ advanced autonomous driving technologies function exactly as they should. Once this testing phase – overseen by Volvo’s highly capable engineers – is finalised, the cars will be handed over to the customers participating in the Drive Me pilot.

The Drive Me pilot project in Gothenburg is the first in a number of planned public trials with autonomous driving Volvo cars. A similar project to the one in Gothenburg will be launched in London next year, while Volvo is also assessing bids from interested cities in China to launch a Drive Me project there within the next few years.