Katarina: Yes, very much so. Technologies such as active driver support systems have been around for a number of years. Many of us are familiar with them and the benefits are clear to us now. These systems will continue to develop as what we refer to as semi-autonomous technology.
Is the concept of autonomous driving fully understood?
Katarina: At Volvo, we’ve explored this concept a lot in in-depth interviews with customers, focus groups and workshops, as well as with external experts and analysts. It’s an expression that is almost worn out, but this is truly a paradigm shift, when the responsibility for driving moves from the driver to the car. All of this is still very abstract to a lot of people. A little like the concept of the smartphone – before it was commonplace to have internet in your pocket, it was difficult to imagine the implications and benefits of the touchscreen smartphone.
So how do you convince customers to buy into autonomous driving?
Per: The fact of the matter is some people say ‘whoa, this will never work’ and some say they want it right now, but most have a clear idea of how they could use it. Once you start to discuss the benefits it becomes clearer still.
Most people believe in it and can relate to it. In our lives other drivers take over all the time, whether it’s people you know or people you don’t, such as taxi drivers.
Do customers trust the idea?
Per: Trust is clearly vital to unlock the benefits – we’ve identified it as a critical element of the user experience. You have to trust the car to gain the benefits we imagine and want to deliver. How do we do that? We can’t give any details yet, but we’re working very hard at it and we’re experimenting a lot in this area.
What about the authorities?
Katarina: This is one area where Drive Me is extremely important. It brings everyone together – all the stakeholders, the customers and us. We involve all the stakeholders in the development work. It has been said about autonomous drive that the tough part is not getting the cars to work; it’s convincing the authorities that they’re safe. There’s actually some truth to that. One way for us to facilitate that is to create this collaboration.
What does the world look like in 30 years as a result of autonomous driving?
Katarina: As we said before, we’re only at a very early stage yet but at Volvo we believe this will drive new ways of living and working. We believe we’re making cars even better by giving people the choice to drive when they want to and delegate the driving task when they prefer – or need – to do something else. We believe cars will still be extremely valuable to our customers as personal spaces.
Will anyone still drive?
Katarina: Driving a car is an inherently fantastic experience and even something of a symbol of personal freedom to a lot of people. If we make a parallel with horses and boats, they were once a utility for a lot of people but became recreational. Driving cars has a practical function – but is also entertainment.