Volvo Cars is a Swedish producer of luxurious cars with the headquarters in Hisingen Island, Gothenburg. Volvo Cars was previously a division of Volvo Group but it was sold to an American concern Ford in 1999 and it was then re-sold to a Chinese concern Geely in 2010. Volvo Group is an international producer of cargo vehicles, buses, engines, construction vehicles, and other kinds of equipment.
Increasing driving safety is one of the top priory issues in autonomous cars development which has to be solved. And since Volvo brand is already firmly associated with car safety, the company just could not ignore the self-driving vehicles promising business.
The Swedish carmaker follows its own way when it comes to driverless vehicles creation. In December 2013, Volvo Cars announced the initiation of the ‘Drive Me’ project – a comprehensive solution for self-driving cars integration on public roads involving common people in driver’s seats. The program was planned to start in 2017 when 100 Volvo XC90 SUVs with level 4 SAE automation equipped with cameras, radars, ultrasonic sensors, lasers, GPS, and Nvidia Drive PX 2 supercomputer were given to regular families of Gothenburg. Thus, the main testers of this technology became not specially trained drivers but regular citizens. Unlike other companies, such approach allows putting consumers in the center of attention and seeing how they use this new technology. Nevertheless, the autonomous driving mode for the SUVs can be activated only on the specific route in Gothenburg which is 31 miles long which is actually a loop around the city.
The Drive Me project was also launched in London in 2017 intending to raise the number of tested vehicles in 2018 to 100 units in the city. In addition, during the next several years, the Drive Me project is to be launched in cities of China.
According to the company’s statement, fully autonomous Volvo vehicles should appear on sale in 2020-2021.
Currently, all the 90 series of Volvo, such as XC90, V90, and S90 are equipped with the Pilot Assist II system. The main functions of the system are:
• City Safety – automated braking to prevent collision with other vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, and other obstacles. Automated braking also works on crossroads if another vehicle, entering a crossroad, has a traffic priority.
• Park Assist – it provides an opportunity of automated parking even if the parking lot is 1.2 of the size necessary for a vehicle.
• An automated steering function able to keep the car within the lane on the speedways which works at up to 80 mph (the first Pilot Assist version worked only at 30 mph).
The Chalmers University of Technology joined the Drive Me project on July 18, 2015, to turn driverless vehicles into reality. The University will boost the project with the scientific approach conducting specialized research, as well as providing programs for educating new professionals.
On August 18, 2016, it became known about the cooperation between Volvo and a taxi company Uber. Their joint investment in the autonomous development amounts to $300 million. Despite this fact, there are no signs yet that the companies collaborate on this technology. As of today’s information, Volvo just provides Uber with cars to test the self-driving technology. It is verified by an extensive use of Volvo XC90 by Uber as test vehicles on the roads of San Francisco, Tempe, and Pittsburgh.
On September 6, 2016, Volvo and Autoliv, a Swedish-American company, which is the world’s leader in car safety systems production, declared their intention to found an enterprise engaged in self-driving vehicles software development. The enterprise was launched in January 2017 and it was named Zenuity.
A week before that, Volvo also announced they would employ another 400 engineers in Sweden during 12 months to enhance the ongoing work on safety and self-driving technologies. They also informed about the scientific research center opening in Lund city in southern Sweden.
In May 2012, the SARTRE project came to a successful conclusion. A fleet of three self-driving Volvo cars took part in it. They drove for 125 miles on Spanish highways. Vehicles were driving at 50 mph with a gap of 20 feet between them and were linked with a wireless connection. This test showed that the linked movement in the road train reduces fuel consumption by 20%. SARTRE was a project of EU with the main goal to increase road safety on highways by implementing the autonomous vehicles transportation technology in road trains.
The road train was also tested in March 2016, this time consisting of three autonomous Volvo trucks. It was a journey across Europe and finished in Rotterdam with a fascinating result of 25% of fuel consumption reduction.
In May 2016, Volvo Group presented a completely self-driving construction truck able to work both on the ground and under it. The main purpose of using this truck is to increase safety and performance in ports, mines, and other places where repeated driving is needed.
On May 16, 2017, Volvo Group together with recycling specialists Renova started the tests of the innovative self-driving garbage truck. This project must also contribute to the increase of productivity and safety in garbage collection in residential areas. The autonomous refuse truck is equipped with sensors and LIDARs making vehicle movements as safe as possible. The truck moves autonomously from one waste container to another. As a result, a driver doesn’t have to get in or out of the cab but focus on refuse collection.