As self-driving cars become increasingly important, Volvo has unveiled an ambitious plan to position itself at the forefront of this cutting-edge technology. Volvo, Nissan, Ford, Tesla and Mercedes-Benz already offer autonomous driving features or promise to do so soon. What separates Volvo is that while some rivals talk about self driving in terms of the "wow" factor, Volvo wants it to be a cornerstone of its efforts to produce the safest cars on the road. Volvo r&d chief Peter Mertens explained why in an interview with Automotive News Europe Correspondent Jennifer Clark.
How will Volvo become the autonomous driving leader?
We want to continue to be in the lead by investing a lot of money, like in our Drive Me program. We’ve started testing what will become 100 completely self-driving cars on roads in and around Gothenburg, Sweden. I want to test real cars in real traffic, with real customers. We will collect miles of experience in real traffic. We can use that to learn and make the algorithm more robust, make it detect situations better than before, and get feedback from customers.
Where is Volvo now with its self-driving car technology?
We’ve introduced City Safety in all our cars, and statistics show that rear crashes [caused by Volvo vehicles] have been reduced by 30 percent. It’s an automatic breaking technology that recognizes when you get too close to the car in front of you, and at low speeds brakes for you.
The new XC90’s so-called Traffic Jam Assist is a big step for self-driving cars at Volvo. How does it work?
It helps you follow the car in front of you and make latitudinal and longitudinal moves. It is completely self driven during a traffic jam. But since it is impossible now to completely monitor the whole world around you, the driver needs to be in the loop. If something unexpected in the system happens, the driver will naturally take over.