The first car built to take part in Volvo's Drive Me trial has rolled off the production line in Torslanda, Sweden. Described by Volvo as "the world's most ambitious and advanced public autonomous driving experiment," Drive Me will see real people using fully autonomous cars on public roads.
Although the cars aren't scheduled to hit the road until next year, Volvo sees this as the beginning of the project, which will be run in Gothenburg with special "hands-off and feet-off" zones allowing for full autonomous use.
The carmaker has been at the forefront of the autonomous driving revolution, most recently in partnering with Uber to ferry passengers around in self-driving taxis and in trialing a self driving truck in an underground mine.
For the Drive Me trial, Volvo XC90 SUVs are being fitted with a variety of sensors, including LiDAR, radar and traditional cameras. The information from the source sensors is then brought together by a powerful computer that Volvo calls the Autonomous Driving Brain in a process called data fusion. The fused data is used to inform the actions that the cars take.
Volvo says that the Drive Me project differs from others in its customer-focused approach. By researching with real drivers in real-world situations, it hopes to gain insights that more controlled research approaches may not yield.
Subsequent to the Drive Me project getting underway Gothenburg, another leg is planned for launch in London. Volvo says it is considering interest from cities in China too.
Volvo has high hopes for autonomous driving tech. It's already introducing semi-autonomous technologies to help with its aim for no-one to be seriously injured or killed in a new Volvo by the year 2020, and is looking to begin introducing fully autonomous cars commercially by around 2021.