Yesterday, Volvo announced– in earth rattling fashion– that they will have a fleet of 100 production-ready self-driving cars on the road by 2017, an announcement that immediately propels them to the forefront of the industry.
Obviously, this move is not completely out of the blue, though. Volvo has been working on the technology for years and has long been an industry leader in their commitment to the project.
Erik Coelingh, a technical specialist at Volvo Cars, says, “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.”
“Developing a complete technological solution for self-driving cars is a major step. Once the public pilot is up and running, it will provide us with valuable knowledge about implementing self-driving cars in the traffic environment, and help us explore how they can contribute to sustainable mobility. Our smart vehicles are a key part of the solution, but a broad societal approach is vital to offer sustainable personal mobility in the future. This unique cross-functional co-operation is the key to a successful implementation of self-driving vehicles.”
Relying on an array of sensors, the fleet of 100 cars is part of Volvo’s “Drive Me” program that will be traversing across Gothenberg, Sweden’s highways. There is a small catch concerning the project, though. While providing full autonomy on the highways, these cars do require the driver to pilot the vehicle during certain circumstances, including when the car gets on and off of the highway, as well as during stormy weather.
Not bad, but I’d say it’s still not what I’d call “full autonomy.” I mean, I want see a damn Johnny Cab or a flying thing-a-mabob out there. That’s when I’ll be satisfied.
Anyway… So, how do these Volvo’s work exactly?
Well, Tim Stevens of CNET says, “Numerous sensors, including radar, sonar, laser scanners and optical cameras will continually look 360 degrees around the entire car. This information enables the car to identify real-time obstacles while also reading things like road markings and speed limit signs. All that augments a high-resolution 3D map and GPS positioning, while a wireless vehicle-to-infrastructure system enables the car to get real-time updates from Gothenberg’s traffic control.”
That’s definitely some impressive technology, especially when compared to the rest of the auto industry. As far as what Volvo’s plans are for the near future, the company says that they are happy with their 100 car fleet for now, but they plan on expanding that number in the near future.