Swedish manufacturer Volvo has announced a new autonomous driving trial in the UK, called ‘Drive Me London’.
Touted by the company as the UK’s “largest and most ambitious autonomous driving trial”, it's hoped that the Drive Me London program will help to speed up the introduction of driverless technology.
Volvo also says that the introduction of autonomous technology promises to revolutionise UK roads in four main areas: safety, congestion, pollution and time saving.
Independent research has revealed that autonomous vehicles have the potential to reduce accident rates by up to 30 per cent, with up to 90 per cent of all accidents currently caused by driver error or distraction.
These factors would effectively disappear with the introduction of driverless cars.
“Autonomous driving represents a leap forward in car safety”, Volvo president, Hakan Samuelsson said.
“The sooner AD (autonomous driving) cars are on the roads, the sooner lives will start being saved.”
The UK-based test will differentiate itself from other autonomous driving programs by using real families driving autonomous cars on public roads.
Volvo will source its data from these everyday subjects, and use the information to develop autonomous cars that are more suited to real-world driving conditions.
Thatcham Research will provide technical data analysis and any professional drivers required as part of the trial.
Peter Shaw, chief executive at Thatcham Research, said: “Research in the US by NHTSA predicts that by 2035, as a result of autonomous and connected cars, crashes will be reduced by 80 per cent”.
“Additionally, if a crash can’t be avoided, then the impact speed will also drop as a result of the system’s performance - reducing the severity of the crash.”
“Vehicle manufacturers are predicting that highly autonomous vehicles, capable of allowing the driver to drop ‘out of the loop’ for certain sections of their journey, will be available from around 2022,” he added.
Sajid Javid, UK Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, said that autonomous cars are the next big thing, and they will make time on the road safer.
“Driverless cars will see our journeys become faster, cleaner and safer,” he said.
“Such advances in technology prove the fourth industrial revolution is just around the corner and our determination to be at the forefront is why we are attracting top names from across the globe for real-world testing.”
While safety is the first priority of driverless technology, factors such as congestion and pollution are also set to improve with the introduction of autonomous vehicles.
Driverless cars will help traffic to move more smoothly, reducing traffic jams while also cutting emissions and associated pollution.
Drive Me London will commence in early 2017, with a select number of semi-autonomous vehicles and expand further in 2018 to include up to 100 autonomous cars.
The 100-strong test fleet will make Drive Me London the largest and most extensive autonomous driving test in Britain.
Volvo’s announcement of Drive Me London follows a similar autonomous driving experiment that was revealed earlier this month for China, also involving around 100 test vehicles.
Locally, South Australia recently became the first state to legalise controlled testing of driverless cars on public roads.
The first company to hold an autonomous trial after the legislation passed was Volvo, again, with a pair of semi-autonomous XC90 SUVs as part of the Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative (ADVI).
The demonstration marked a first for driverless technology in the Southern Hemisphere.