With Volvo’s ‘Drive Me’ project in its second year, the automaker is moving rapidly towards the aim of placing 100 self-driving cars in the hands of customers on selected roads around Gothenburg, Sweden, by 2017.
The public pilot, a one-of-a-kind collaboration with legislators, transport authorities and the city of Gothenburg, is a central component of Volvo Cars’ plan to achieve sustainable mobility and ensure a crash-free future. And now, Volvo is presenting 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,” said 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.”
Based on an extensive analysis of potential technical faults, Volvo has designed a complete production-viable autonomous driving system. The key to making this unprecedented leap is a complex network of sensors, radars, trifocal cameras, laser scanners, cloud-based positioning systems, intelligent braking and steering technologies and 3D, high-definition maps.
This Autopilot system is designed to be reliable enough to allow the car to take over every aspect of driving in autonomous mode. The technology advances a crucial step beyond the automotive systems demonstrated so far since it includes fault-tolerant systems.
“It is relatively easy to build and demonstrate a self-driving concept vehicle, but if you want to create an impact in the real world, you have to design and produce a complete system that will be safe, robust and affordable for ordinary customers,” said Dr. Erik Coelingh, Technical Specialist at Volvo Cars. “Making this complex system 99 percent reliable is not good enough. You need to get much closer to 100 percent before you can let self-driving cars mix with other road users in real-life traffic.”
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. Therefore, the Autopilot system includes back-up systems and a “smart” ability to handle complicated scenarios.
“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,” said Dr. Mertens. “This transforms everyday commuting from ‘lost time’ to ‘quality time,’ opening up new opportunities for work and pleasure."
This article is presented by Kundert Volvo in Hasbrouck Heights and Englewood, NJ.