The future where self-driving cars cruise public roads will come sooner than later. Volvo announced last week that it is pushing through with its Drive Me project and that it aims to put 100 self-driving vehicles—specifically self-driving XC90 SUVs—in the hands of customers on selected streets in its hometown of Gothenburg, Sweden by 2017.
The Swedish automaker, which made the announcement through an online press conference, is launching the pilot program with the help of lawmakers, transport authorities and the local government. As the company pointed out in a press release, they are doing something that has never been done before, and this is allowing ordinary people to get behind the wheel of a self-driving vehicle in normal traffic on public roads.
Volvo equipped the Drive Me XC90s with an Autopilot system designed to be fool-proof. The test vehicles’ self-driving technologies are backed up with redundant systems to ensure that a systems failure would not compromise the safety of all vehicle occupants.
Each Drive Me XC90 comes with an elaborate system of sensors and cameras. First, there is the radar and camera mounted on the windshield. These look forward, checking traffic signs and determining the curve of the road. Then there are four surround radars, placed in each corner of the vehicle, that monitor close-range traffic. These are complemented with four dynamic-range cameras, which also watch out for lane markings.
Below the air intake of the Drive Me XC90 is a multiple beam laser scanner that identifies objects ahead of the vehicle. Found in the upper part of the windshield is a trifocal camera that can detect distant objects as well as pedestrians and other road objects that suddenly appear. Meanwhile, the rear bumper has two long-range radars that can recognize fast-moving cars coming from behind.
Moreover, the test vehicle is equipped with another 12 ultrasonic sensors. It also relies on a high-definition 3D digital map for information on its surroundings and GPS for navigation.
Volvo has yet to determine how it will select the customers that will get behind the wheel of the 100 self-driving XC90 units. However, it is certain that the automaker will choose people who live or work near the 50-kilometer route chosen for the Drive Me pilot.
Also certain is that the selected drivers will not be required to pay attention to the road or prepare to take control of the test unit. Volvo is giving the drivers the opportunity to take advantage of commuting time to do something else other than driving.
Photo credit: media.volvocars.com