Volvo puts Swedish families to work on driverless data-slurp trials

Playing catchup with Britain, or taking a slightly different tack?

Two Swedish families are to start data-gathering trials for Volvo’s driverless car project, revealing that the Chinese-owned Swedish carmaker is quite a long way behind British autonomous vehicle R&D.

The lucky victims applicants, the Hains and the Simonovskis, will be the first families to trial the Volvo XC90s as part of the Swedish carmaker’s Drive Me project.

The SUVs are fitted with the usual driver assistance aids plus extra cameras and unspecified sensors, with the data captured being examined by Volvo’s engineers and used for the manufacturer’s driverless car project. Both families will simply drive their cars as they'd usually do, with onboard data-loggers hoovering up their driving habits for later analysis.

“It feels great to be a part of this project,” said Alex Hain, who is 45 years old. “We get the chance to be part of developing technology that will one day save lives.”

A Volvo press statement informs us all that “over time, all participants in the Drive Me project will gradually be introduced to more advanced assisted-driving cars, after receiving special training.”

This suggests a move towards Level 3 automation in relatively short order, though Volvo is at pains to point out that the initial introduction to these more advanced vehicles will take place in “controlled environments”. Volvo’s stated goal is to have a Level 5 (fully autonomous) vehicle on the road by 2021.

We’re already doing this in Blighty

Council workers in the London Borough of Greenwich were issued with Land Rover Discoveries fitted with similar data-logging gear over the summer. The Disco data is being fed to the Move UK autonomous vehicle data-gathering project, which, along with the British driverless car industry, is also aiming for Level 5 vehicles by 2021.

Those council vehicles, however, will reflect the patterns of use and driving habits of commercial vehicles driven by folk who drive around for a living. The Volvo trial will gather data on nuclear families (both in the trial include parents aged in their forties and two school-aged kids each), which reveals a different aspect of road use.

Similarly, Oxford-based driverless car software startup Oxbotica is running a broadly similar trial, which aims to put data-gathering vehicles on the M40 motorway. ®

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