Swedish automaker Volvo has launched its Drive Me program, claiming it be the “world’s most ambitious and advanced public autonomous driving experiment.” The experiment, which will take place in Gothenburg, Sweden, will use Volvo’s autonomous XC90s handed to real customers for use on public roads.
Currently, Volvo offers limited autonomous functionality in its 90 series cars called Pilot Assist. This feature can autonomously keep the car within lane markings up to 80 miles per hour (135 kmh). And that’s about it.
The brand spanking new Drive Me cars will add hands and feet-off capability in specially designated autonomous drive zones around Gothenburg. The souped up cars come with a slew of sensors: cameras, radar, and lidar. The autonomous driving is powered by the cleverly-named Autonomous Driving Brain.
Volvo is hoping to collect vast amounts of real-use data through its Drive Me program. Set apart from other autonomous car experiments, Volvo will collect feedback and input from customers using the autonomous cars. That’s in addition to its team of engineers working on the project too. The automaker, like Ford and BMW, hopes to commercialize autonomous cars by 2021. It’s worth noting that Drive Me cars are limited to location-based use.
“This is an important milestone for the Drive Me project,” said Erik Coelingh, Senior Technical Leader Active Safety at Volvo. “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, Drive Me cars are tested by engineers and then handed to customers participating in the Drive Me pilot. Volvo didn’t clarify if they’ll have engineers joining the customers in the front seat of the car (taking notes and things), but I assume the Drive Me zones in Gothenburg are safe enough.
Drive Me in Gothenburg is the first pilot program in a number of public trials. Similar programs will take place in London and China as early as next year. As for other news relating to Volvo, the automaker has partnered with Autoliv to develop autonomous driving software. In addition, the partnership with Uber, where autonomous Volvo cars will give free autonomous Uber rides in Pittsburgh, was announced last month.