100 self-driving Volvos to hit the streets of Sweden

The cars use a communications link with Volvo to get the latest driving conditions

Volvo Car Groups Drive Me project, which will feature 100 self-driving Volvos on public roads, has kicked off and its first test vehicles are now cruising around the Swedish city of Gothenburg.

Volvo has begun testing cars that -- with the push of a button on the steering wheel -- take over a car's acceleration, braking and steering.

Volvo Car Group's " Drive Me" project expects to have 100 self-driving cars on the road by 2017, with the first prototypes already driving around the streets of Gothenburg, Sweden. The roads being used by the test vehicles are typical commuter arteries, including motorway conditions and frequent queues.

Volvo's self-driving cars use radar, camera and laser technology to monitor the environment around it.

The prototype vehicles now being tested do require the driver to continue supervising the car's performance, since the vehicles are still in test phase.

"Our intention is that in the final product a driver can actually release the steering wheel without having to supervise so that he or she can do something else with their time," said Erik Coelingh, Volvo's technical expert for activity safety braking, accelerating and steering."

Volvo's self-driving cars use radar, camera and laser technology to monitor the nearby environment. Each car also uses a private cloud map service of the roads it's traveling on in order to have latest data for the vehicle's computer.

"We do analysis on traffic safety. We know from this analysis that almost all collisions that occur are caused by human error," Coelingh said. "If you automate driving, you take away the causes of many accidents and you can make traffic safer."

The public pilot, Coelingh said, will provide Volvo with valuable insight into the societal benefits of making autonomous vehicles a natural part of the traffic environment.

Volvo said that what makes its autonomous vehicle project unique from others -- such as Google's self-driving cars -- is that it involves all the key players: legislators, transportation authorities, a major city, a vehicle manufacturer and real customers. Gothenburg has about 500,000 people.

Since late in the summer of 2012, Google said it has "logged thousands of miles" driving on the streets of Mountain View, Calif., where the company is based. Google said its autonomous cars have driven more than 700,000 miles.

Volvo's customers will drive the 100 cars in everyday driving conditions on approximately 30 miles of selected roads in and around Gothenburg.

"That Volvo Cars' hometown, Gothenburg, becomes the world's first arena for self-driving cars in everyday driving conditions demonstrates both our technological leadership and Sweden's dedication to pioneering the integration of self-driving vehicles," Coelingh said.

Volvo's self-driving cars use radar, camera to monitor traffic and infrastructure around the vehicle, as well as GPS in order to get the latest map data to the vehicle's computer.

Lucas Mearian covers consumer data storage, consumerization of IT, mobile device management, renewable energy, telematics/car tech and entertainment tech for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

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This story, "100 self-driving Volvos to hit the streets of Sweden" was originally published by Computerworld.

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