Swedish families are playing an instrumental role in Volvo’s autonomous vehicle development. The Hains and Simonovskis from Gothenburg, Sweden are already navigating the city in XC90 SUVs as part of Volvo’s Drive Me program. The families are utilizing XC90s equipped with autonomous technology just as they would any other vehicle for their daily routines. Volvo’s engineers will use the corresponding feedback and impressions to further develop the company’s driverless technology.
Volvo plans to have fully automated cars available by 2021.
Three more families are expected to join early next year and Volvo says up to 100 people will be involved in the Drive Me program. Volvo’s engineers will monitor and study how the autonomous XC90 SUVs accompany these families throughout the day, from taking the kids to school to getting groceries. Volvo says the Drive Me program is about real customers testing the different stages of driver assisted and, eventually, fully autonomous technology.
The Hain family comprises of Alex and Paula (45 years old), and their daughters Filippa (17) and Smilla (14). The Hains were the first ones selected to take part in the Drive Me initiative earlier this year. Joining the Hain’s are Sasko Simonovski (44) and his wife Anna (41), and their children Elin (10) and Villiam (8). The Volvo XC90s received by both families feature the automaker’s latest driver assistance suite, complete with a variety of cameras and sensors.
“Drive Me is an important research project for Volvo Cars,” said Henrik Green, Senior Vice President for Volvo’s R&D department. “We expect to learn a lot from engaging these families and will use their experiences to shape the development of our autonomous driving technology, so that by 2021 we can offer our customers a fully autonomous car.”
During the initial stages, the Hains and Simonovskis will keep their hands on the wheel as they normally would any other vehicle. Over time, Drive Me participants will gradually be introduced to more advanced driverless technology after receiving special training. Volvo says these more advanced vehicles will first be introduced in controlled environments with supervision from a safety expert.
Proponents of autonomous driving have pointed to a number of benefits, including a world where no single person is hurt or killed in a traffic accident. Volvo’s Vision 2020 commitment is about developing technology to create a safer world, including the end goal of eliminating road fatalities. Across the industry, global summits on automated driving are being held to address and overcome the challenges facing autonomous cars.
“It feels great to be a part of this project,” commented Alex Hain. “We get the chance to be part of developing technology that will one day save lives.”
Carl Anthony is Managing Editor of Automoblog and resides in Detroit, Michigan.