Volvo has officially begun its Drive Me autonomous vehicle public road trial, with the first set of self-driving XC90 SUVs rolling out of Volvo’s facilities last week.
The Drive Me program is far from the first trial of self-driving cars on public roads. Whereas other trials primarily feature engineers in the driver’s seat, Volvo says that Drive Me will be the first to feature human drivers selected from the general populace, primarily Volvo customers.
According to Erik Coelingh, senior technical leader for active safety at Volvo, “Customers look at their cars differently than us engineers, so we are looking forward to learn how they use these cars in their daily lives and what feedback they will give us”.
As Daniel Lipinski, the man in charge of Audi’s self-driving car program, told CarAdvice last year, it’s one thing to engineer a car to drive itself safely, it’s another to ensure that it does so in a way that conforms to our expectations of normal driving behaviour.
Volvo’s new S90, V90, and XC90 can be optioned with Pilot Assist that can gently nudge the car’s steering to keep it within its lane.
The XC90 Drive Me cars go well beyond that. Under the floor of the boot, the Drive Me vehicles are kitted out with a high power computer system, known as the Autonomous Driving Brain, that allows for hands-off, feet-off self-driving within specially designated zones in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Before the self-driving XC90 crossovers end up in customers’ hands, though, Volvo’s engineers will “finalise” the cars.
London has been confirmed as the second city to host the Drive Me trial, with the program kicking off there in 2017. The company is currently assessing bids from various Chinese cities, although trials there aren’t expected to begin for a few years.
In July, Volvo announced a partnership with Uber that would see the two companies jointly develop a next generation autonomous vehicle. More recently, Volvo and automotive supplier Autoliv announced that they would work together on self-driving vehicle software.