Speaking to the Australian media at the launch of the Volvo XC90, the company’s communications manager, Trevor O’Rourke, confirmed the company’s ambitious plans for autonomous cars.
“In 2017 we will have 100 (autonomous) cars going to customers in the Gothenburg (Sweden) area.” O’Rourke said.
“We have a project at the moment, the Drive Me project, and we are one of the most advanced autonomous drive projects of all car makers, we are way ahead of Google.”
The battle to be the first with fully autonomous driving has heated up recently with not only the car manufacturers competing, but also the likes of Google and now even Apple all focused on delivering the future of driver-free automobiles.
Even still, O’Rourke believes that Volvo is ahead of its German rivals, that are more interested in making headlines instead of proper autonomous cars.
“The thing that differentiates Volvo from Audi who are also doing a lot of autonomous driving gimmicks… let's face it, you get an A8 and you turn it into an autonomous car and do donuts in it, doesn’t the driver want to do that?”
Volvo’s focus is on creating autonomous cars that can take the ‘boring’ task of commuting out of the equation, the company claims.
“We want to free up time for the driver to do the things they want to do, we are designing autonomous cars around the needs of the consumer not around getting some cheap PR. The commute is the most boring time for the driver, it’s something that we are focusing on.”
Volvo’s strategy is to create autonomous cars that can function on their own, rather than requiring a constant uplink to a cloud solution, which Volvo also offers.
The Swedish company promises that all its new cars will be capable of semi or fully autonomous driving by 2020, but that there’s still plenty of work to be done in regards to legal issues and legislation around autonomous cars.
Another interesting aspect of Volvo’s autonomous cars will be their reporting system that can anonymously share data with authorities regarding road conditions.
For example, if a Volvo hits an icy or slippery patch of road it can send the GPS localtion and a warning to authorities and other cars about the hazard.
The biggest challenge for the Swedish brand remains human drivers in other cars, which remain mostly unpredictable.
“You can’t predict the activity of other people, when all cars are autonomous there will be much less potential for an accident when cars can talk to each other.”
Volvo, Mercedes-Benz and Audi have all committed to bring about autonomous vehicles before the end of the decade.