Volvo autonomous cars to be tested on UK public roads next year

Volvo autonomous cars include the XC90 Drive Me test vehicle. Several test vehicles have been on the road in and around Gothenburg since 2014 - image courtesy of Volvo.
Volvo autonomous cars include the XC90 Drive Me test vehicle. Several test vehicles have been on the road in and around Gothenburg since 2014 - image courtesy of Volvo.

Car maker Volvo is set to begin the UK’s most ambitious autonomous driving trial early next year.

The Swedish luxury automaker plans to test Volvo autonomous cars with real families on the UK’s public roads to help speed up the introduction of a technology which promises to dramatically reduce car accidents as well as free up congested roads and help save drivers time.

Volvo’s “Drive Me London” program is the most ambitious self-driving trial in the UK to date, and will begin with a limited number of semi-autonomous cars with the program having the potential of expanding to up to 100 autonomous vehicles in 2018.

The program is part of Volvo’s ambition to pioneer the development of autonomous driving systems globally as part of its commitment that no one will be seriously injured or killed in a new Volvo by the year 2020.

Drive Me London will begin in early 2017, with Volvo planning to use the resulting data from the tests involving real families to help develop autonomous systems catered to real-world conditions.

Insurance industry research organization Thatcham has been tasked with providing data analysis and professional test drivers for the trial if needed.

Volvo and Thatcham will be hosting a seminar next week in London focusing on autonomous driving and its insurance implications.

Drive Me London follows the previous announcement from Volvo of the company’s plans to test its self-driving system on selected Gothenburg streets near its headquarters next year.

The introduction of autonomous driving cars promises to revolutionise Britain’s roads in four main areas – safety, congestion, pollution and time saving, with independent research revealing that the new driving technology has the potential to reduce the number of car accidents by up to 30% while also suggesting that the current rate of 90% of accidents caused by driver error will largely disappear with the introduction of the new technology.

An autonomous driving society of the future is something Volvo president and chief executive Håkan Samuelsson was certain would save lives.

“Autonomous driving represents a leap forward in car safety,” he said.

“The sooner AD cars are on the roads, the sooner lives will start being saved.”

The Volvo president implored governments to immediately implement legislation to allow his company’s technology to truly flourish.

“There are multiple benefits to AD cars,” he said.

“That is why governments globally need to put in place the legislation and infrastructure to allow AD cars onto the streets as soon as possible. The car industry cannot do it all by itself, we need governmental help.”

UK officials have said similar trials to Volvo’s Drive Me London program would “become increasingly common” as the country seeks to lead the world in developing self-driving cars to reduce accidents and ease congestion and pollution on UK streets.

Volvo autonomous cars in China

Similar to its Drive Me London program, Volvo also plans to launch an ambitious autonomous driving experiment in China.

As in London, Chinese drivers will test Volvo autonomous cars on public roads in everyday driving conditions.

Volvo expects the Chinese experiment to involve up to 100 cars and will begin negotiations in the coming months with interested cities to see which is able to provide the necessary permissions, regulations and infrastructure to allow the autonomous driving experiment to go ahead.

Mr Samuelsson told a seminar in Beijing on April 7 that China could lead the way in autonomous driving, during a seminar entitled ‘Autonomous driving – could China take the lead?

Volvo electric cars 

As well as testing its autonomous driving technology, Volvo has recently announced that it aims to sell up to one million electrified cars by 2025.

Volvo plans to achieve this aim by offering at least two hybrid versions of every model in its range and releasing the first all-electric car in 2019.

Volvo has developed two all new vehicle architectures for larger and smaller cars – Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) and Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) – that can incorporate either hybrid or fully electric car technology.

The luxury automaker’s larger 90 and 60 series cars are to be built on SPA and it will soon launch a global range of smaller 40 series cars on CMA, with all of these cars having electrified versions.

The new electrified car pledge forms part of a wide ranging review of Volvo’s strategic sustainability programme that contains several new commitments that place sustainability at the centre of its future business operations.