Volvo, take the wheel
The phrase “Leave the driving to us” will take on a whole new meaning when Volvo unleashes its self-driving automobile to China’s unsuspecting public in a soon-to-realized autonomous drive experiment that will see local drivers test the cars on public roads in everyday conditions, in addition to limited driving situations such as on express roads and highways.
According to an article on Reuters.com, “The move is part of the Swedish company’s efforts to take advantage of the pledges central government policymakers in China (the world’s biggest auto market, by the way) have made to embrace futuristic technologies such as self-driving cars.”
That Volvo is wholly owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Company certainly makes things easier. Volvo is currently scouting for a city that could provide not only the necessary permissions and regulations, but more importantly the right infrastructure that will provide valuable data and feedback while the experiment is underway.
The Swiss got it right
The China experiment will be patterned after Volvo’s own similarly-set-up testing program in the Swedish city of Gothenburg that aims to start deploying self-drive test cars next year.
And lest you think Volvo has a lock on the self-driving market then think again: Tesla, Mercedes, Audi and Alphabet Inc’s Google are among those developing self-driving vehicles.
Following Sweden’s lead
Erik Coelingh, Technical Driving Specialist for Volvo, explained in a recent interview that “The test cars are now able to handle lane following, speed adaption and merging traffic all by themselves. The resultant autopilot technology enables the driver to hand over the driving to the vehicle which will assume all driving functions.”
That said, Volvo engineers feel driverless cars that are voice controlled without steering wheels and can drive anywhere under any conditions will not become a reality in the foreseeable future.
Show me the money
Nevertheless, Volvo aims to sell 200,000 units in Asia Pacific by 2020 according to Reuters: One quarter of its planned global sales, with China accounting for the bulk. The automaker sold nearly 82,000 cars in China last year.
This experiment in China, like that of Sweden will provide Volvo with valuable insight into the social benefits of making autonomous vehicles a natural part of the traffic environment.