Volvo is allowing families in Sweden to test its cars on public roads in Gothenburg as part of the company’s Drive Me project, under which it is developing autonomous vehicles. Participants will then feed back their impressions.
The first two families, the Hains and the Simonovskis, have now received the XC90s, while three more families will be provided with vehicles early next year. Over the next four years up to 100 people will be involved in Drive Me. Different stages of driver-assisted and eventually fully autonomous technology will be tested.
The program will also enable Volvo engineers to monitor participants’ everyday use and interaction with the car, as they perform tasks such as driving to work, taking the kids to school or going shopping for groceries, for example.
Cars are fitted with the latest driver-assistance technology, as well as an array of cameras and sensors to monitor their behavior and provide the car with information on its surroundings.
“It feels great to be a part of this project. We get the chance to be part of developing technology that will one day save lives,” said Alex Hain who is 45 years old.
“Drive Me is an important research project for Volvo Cars. We expect to learn a lot from engaging with 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,” said Henrik Green, senior VP of R&D.
During the first stages, drivers must keep their hands on the steering wheel and supervise driving at all times when traveling. Over time, all participants in the Drive Me project will gradually be introduced to more advanced assisted driving cars, after receiving special training.
Even then, testing these more advanced cars will initially take place in controlled environments with supervision from a safety expert. No technology will ever be introduced if there is any question over its safety.
The Hain family comprises Alex and Paula (45 years old), and their daughters Filippa (17) and Smilla (14). The Hains were the first people chosen to take part in Drive Me earlier this year. They have been joined by Sasko Simonovski (44) and his wife Anna (41), and their children Elin (10) and Villiam (8).