Volvo Car Group’s groundbreaking project ‘Drive Me’ – featuring 100 self-driving Volvos on public roads in everyday driving conditions – is moving forward rapidly. The first test cars are already rolling around the Swedish city of Gothenburg and the sophisticated Autopilot technology is performing well.
“The test cars are now able to handle lane following, speed adaption and merging traffic all by themselves. This is an important step towards our aim that the final ‘Drive Me’ cars will be able to drive the whole test route in highly autonomous mode. The technology, which will be called Autopilot, enables the driver to hand over the driving to the vehicle, which takes care of all driving functions,” says Erik Coelingh, Technical Specialist at Volvo Car Group.
What makes the ‘Drive Me’ project unique is that it involves all the key players: legislators, transport authorities, a major city, a vehicle manufacturer and real customers. The customers will drive the 100 cars in everyday driving conditions on approximately 50 kilometres of selected roads in and around Gothenburg. These roads are typical commuter arteries, including motorway conditions and frequent congestion.
“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,” says Erik Coelingh.
‘Drive Me – Self-driving cars for sustainable mobility’ is a joint initiative between Volvo Car Group, the Swedish Transport Administration, the Swedish Transport Agency, Lindholmen Science Park and the City of Gothenburg. The Swedish Government is endorsing the project.
“This public pilot will provide us with a valuable insight into the societal benefits of making autonomous vehicles a natural part of the traffic environment. 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,” says Erik Coelingh.
Volvo Car Group initiates Scandinavian pilot using cloud-based communication to make driving safer
Volvo Car Group (Volvo Cars), the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket) and the Norwegian Public Roads Administration (Statens Vegvesen) are joining forces in a pilot project in which road friction information from individual cars is shared within a cloud-based system.
The real-time data about slippery patches on the road are used to warn vehicles nearby, at the same time as it contributes to making winter road maintenance more efficient.
“The pilot is one of the first practical examples of the way communication between vehicles over the mobile network enables vehicles to ‘speak’ to each other and with the traffic environment. This can contribute to making traffic safer,” says Erik Israelsson, Project Leader Cooperative ITS (Intelligent Transport System) at Volvo Cars.
“We have 50 test cars on the roads, and next winter the fleet will grow considerably. Our aim is to make the technology available for our customers within a few years,” he adds.
Using the mobile network
When the Volvo test car detects an icy or slippery road patch, the information is transmitted to Volvo Cars’ database via the mobile phone network. An instant warning is transmitted to other vehicles that are approaching the slippery area, making it possible for the drivers to take immediate action to avoid a critical situation.
A slippery road warning on the instrument cluster alerts the driver. The application in the vehicle will be designed to adapt the driver warning to match the severity level based on the vehicle speed and the present road conditions.
Improved winter road maintenance
The information about the icy patch is also sent to the road administrator as a complement to existing measurement stations along the road. The data can help the road administrator and their contracted entrepreneurs to better plan and execute winter road maintenance and quickly address changed conditions.
“When the road administrator has access to information from a large number of cars, the data can be used to make winter road maintenance more efficient. The information could help to improve road safety further for all road users. This could also reduce the use of salt when not needed and minimize the environmental impact,” says Erik Israelsson.
Volvo Cars recognizes that the maintained integrity of end-users is an important aspect of the system. The information shared with the road administrator will not include data of unique vehicles. The aggregated information is used solely to describe the present status of the road network.
Ambitious connectivity strategy
Volvo Cars strategically invests in and initiates partnerships to create cloud-based solutions, and the slippery road warning is the first safety feature in the Volvo cloud. The development of sophisticated communication via the mobile network is part of the company’s aim to offer customers a fully connected experience.
“This is only the beginning. In the future we will have increased exchange of vital information between vehicles,” says Erik Israelsson. “There is considerable potential in this area, including safer traffic, a more comfortable drive and an improved traffic flow.”
“The strategic focus on connectivity within our new Scalable Product Architecture paves the way for more cloud-based safety solutions. This will bring us closer to our safety vision that nobody should die or suffer serious injuries in a new Volvo car by the year 2020,” concludes Erik Israelsson.