Volvo has launched a driverless car research project focused on user experience

Volvo takes ‘human-centric’ approach to driverless cars

Image credit: Volvo

Swedish car maker Volvo is launching a large driverless car research project that will trial the innovative technology with real people in real life situations.

The Hain family from Gothenburg have been announced as the first participants of the Drive Me project. They will use a luxury hybrid SUV XC90 that Volvo has equipped with autonomous features for the purposes of the research.

“The aim of the Drive Me research project is to focus on how to enhance peoples’ lives and have a positive impact on society,” said Henrik Green, senior vice president for research and development at Volvo Car Group.

“We take a holistic rather than a purely technical approach to our research and development processes. No one else to our knowledge is developing autonomous drive from a human-centric standpoint.”

The cars used in the experiment are equipped with sensors and cameras that can detect hazards on the road and avoid them. The technology generates enormous amounts of data, which are being processed and interpreted in real time by a powerful processor dubbed the Autonomous Driving Brain. The ‘brain’ decides whether the car needs to accelerate, brake or change direction.

The driver activates and deactivates the autonomous mode using paddles located on the steering wheel. When the car drives itself, the person behind the wheel should be able to read or relax and feel safe without needing to observe the road.

“We want to learn more around how people feel when they engage and disengage autonomous drive, what the handover should be like, and what sort of things they would do in the car when it’s driving them to their destination,” Green added.

Up to 100 autonomous cars will be tested on the roads around Gothenburg, where Volvo is based. People of different ages, lifestyles and with different levels of driving experience will be included in the trials, which will be taking place in real traffic on public roads. The routes for the trials, however, will be pre-selected.

Volvo expects to collect terabytes of data on safety, user experience, traffic flow and energy efficiency, which will inform further development of the technology.

The company hopes to introduce a fully autonomous commercial vehicle in 2021.

Volvo said it plans to include other cities in the research project in future, including London. The firm wants to study various traffic environments in order to gain the ability to adapt to a wide range of conditions and scenarios.

Volvo, which first outlined its vision for autonomous driving in 2015, has recently partnered with ride-sharing company Uber to develop base technology for autonomous cars.

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