It may seem to be very science-fiction, but Volvo’s autonomous self-driving car is far more science-fact as the first vehicle sets out on to the open roads along with the general public. In the run up to a test drive where one hundred self driving vehicles will be let loose around the city of Gothenburg in Sweden, test drives are being performed with individual cars to test their capability to merge into lanes of traffic along with braking and accelerating where necessary.
A well orchestrated advert (as we have come to expect of Volvo since their Jean-Claude Van Damme advert with the two separating trucks went viral last year) demonstrates how the car requires no input from the passenger as it drives through the city and motorways before it returns to manual driving mode and the passenger then becomes the driver.
Eric Coelingh, a technical specialist at Volvo spoke out reporting, “The test cars are now able to handle lane following, speed adaption and merging traffic all by themselves. This is an important step towards our aim that the final Drive Me cars will be able to drive the whole test route in highly autonomous mode.”
When driving in autonomous mode, a series of cameras and sensors around the exterior of the car constantly monitor and track the position of nearby vehicles, calculating whether they are speeding up, slowing down, changing lanes or simply overtaking. Should all of the public road tests prove to be a success, the proposal to release the one hundred vehicles on to a 50km route of the city should be ready for around 2017. Whilst this is another step forward to the safer driving environment that both Google and Nissan have also ventured out to achieve, we are still a long way off having these vehicles publicly available to purchase, amid fears that they are not safe enough for the entire population and predicting the actions of other road users like a real person would be able to do.
Either way though this road test shows that the technology is there and it does work (on a small-scale) so it is not a case of if, but when will it finally be deemed safe and ready to go on sale.