Gothenberg’s streets could soon become a very weird place when Volvo, Sweden’s other iconic car brand, puts 100 driverless test cars on the road.
According to an article in The Local, Volvo Car Corp. CEO Hakan Samuelson took infrastructure minister Catharina Elmsater-Sward for a ride in a driverless car to show what it can do and to publicize the project.
“We see this not only as a way to make it easier, but also to make driving safer,” Samuelson said.
After the ride, Elmsater-Sward agreed driverless cars offered a safer drive.
“You might be a good driver, but there will be times when you’re not good enough,” she said.
The company has already signed agreements with the city and various other governmental agencies.
According to an article on the Wall Street Journal’s website, the 85-year-old carmaker is gambling on the success of driverless cars to pull it out of years of losses. The company sold only 436,000 cars last year.
More than just a novelty, the company believes that driverless, also known as autonomous, vehicles will be safer than human driven cars.
“Our vision is that no one is killed or injured in a new Volvo by 2020,” said Anders Eugensson, head of government affairs for Volvo.
The company points to advances in technology. The cars will be equipped with cameras, lasers and sensors to monitor the situation on the road, while internal technology manages the driving function. Another important feature will be onboard wireless internet, allowing other driverless cars to communicate and form cooperative caravans.
“We are convinced this is the future and we want to get there first,” said Marcus Rothoff, head of developing Volvo’s driver assistance technology.
The company has had 50 engineers working on the project for several years, but will not reveal how much has been spent. Some of the funding has come from the European Union.
Currently, the driverless cars have a peak speed of 31 mph, the though company is working on ways to increase that. And if a human wants to take the wheel and go faster, he can, and the safety features will all still be working.
“The car of the future will be just like the farmer’s horse,” Eugensson said. “The farmer can steer the horse and carriage, but if he falls asleep the horse can still take him back home. And if the farmer tries to steer the carriage against a tree or a cliff, the horse will refuse.”
Like Saab, Volvo is also a Chinese-owned company. Zhejiang Geely Holding group acquired Volvo for $1.3 billion in 2010.