Volvo has underlined its intentions to launch self-driving cars by announcing plans to launch a test fleet of autonomous models on Swedish roads by 2017. The test cars will operate in normal traffic on certain stretches of roads in Gothenburg, Sweden, accounting for a total of 31 miles in the city.
The Volvo project is called "Drive Me" and is intended to test whether a driver could engage in other activities like reading a book while the car drives itself, and how self-driving cars would interact with other vehicles. In partnership with the local government and a nearby research group, Volvo will put 100 self-driving cars onto public roads to gather data about their use.
"The self-driving technology used in the pilot allows you to hand over the driving to the car when the circumstances are appropriate," Volvo Car Group CEO Håkan Samuelsson said in a statement. "It will give us an insight into the technological challenges at the same time as we get valuable feedback from real customers."
Although Volvo has not said what type of vehicle will be used in the trial (the Volvo S60 pictured is an early prototype), the company says that it will integrate its self-driving technologies into cars based on the new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) platform that will underpin the next-generation 2015 Volvo XC90 crossover, as well as most other future Volvo models. The automaker has already demonstrated systems in current cars that can automatically brake and steer without human interaction.
In addition to taking over driving duties, the test cars in the Drive Me project will be able to park themselves without a human on board. Volvo has already demonstrated this technology with V40 hatchbacks. The driver can step out of the car at the entrance to a parking garage, and the car will automatically navigate to an empty spot.
Several other automakers and automotive suppliers have plans to launch self-driving cars on public roads. Nissan said in August that it will sell a series-production autonomous car by 2020.