VOLVO has brought the world one step closer to fully driverless vehicles on public roads with new tech developed in collaboration with ride-hailing firm Uber.
The Swedish car maker says the Volvo XC90 SUV you see here is the world’s first fully autonomous production car. It combines the vehicle’s existing acceleration, braking and steering driver aids with “an array of sensors” (the exact details are tbc) mounted to the roof and bespoke control software.
The firm has been trialling a fleet of around 250 autonomous XC90s in the US for two years, and recently acquired a licence to test on public roads in Sweden, but importantly the taxi company’s new systems are claimed to be safer and more reliable than those used when an autonomous Uber XC90 test car was involved in a fatal crash in March 2018.
To further reduce the risks of serious accidents occurring, Volvo has installed back-up systems that can take over if anything goes wrong with the primary steering, braking and battery systems. Should anything fail completely, Volvo says the autonomous XC90 will automatically start slowing down and come a complete stop.
The Uber self-driving tech has been designed so that it can be added to any XC90, allowing the taxi company to quickly expand its self-driving fleet in future. Volvo has agreed to build and deliver “tens of thousands” of suitable base cars to Uber in the next few years.
The car maker has also said it wants to see the driverless tech filter down into its own customer vehicles. The first autonomous Volvos are expected go on sale from 2021, but you won’t be able to use the fully self-driving features in the UK without a change in the law; at the moment a human driver is required to be in control of the vehicle at all times.
If and when that does happen, it’s likely that fully autonomous driving will be allowed only in designated areas such as motorways and ring roads, away from pedestrians and other road users, until the technology is deemed safe in all situations.