Families help Volvo develop autonomous-drive cars
The Hains and Simonovskis are just ordinary Swedish families living in Gothenburg, but they are embarking on an extraordinary journey with Volvo Cars.
They are the first of numerous families who will help the luxury car maker develop its autonomous-drive cars by testing them on public roads and providing feedback to Volvo Cars engineers.
The Hains and Simonovskis have now received their Volvo XC90 premium SUVs, which they will drive as part of the project called Drive Me.
Volvo engineers will gain invaluable data with the opportunity to monitor the families' everyday use and interaction with the car, as they drive to work, take the kids to school, or go shopping for groceries.
The Hain family, which comprises Alex and Paula (both 45 years old), and their daughters Filippa (17) and Smilla (14), were the first people chosen to take part in Drive Me.
They are now joined by Sasko Simonovski (44) and his wife Anna (41), and their children Elin (10) and William (8).
"It feels great to be a part of this project," said Alex Hain. "We get the chance to be part of developing technology that will one day save lives."
Three more families will follow early next year, and over the next four years up to 100 people will be involved in Drive Me.
Volvo Cars plans to have a fully autonomous car commercially available by 2021, and the data derived from Drive Me will play a crucial role in the development of these vehicles.
Drive Me will involve real customers testing the different stages of driver-assisted and eventually fully autonomous technology.
"Drive Me is an important research project for Volvo Cars," said Henrik Green, Senior Vice President for the company's R&D department. "We expect to learn a lot from engaging these families and will use their experiences to shape the development of our autonomous-driving technology, so that by 2021 we can offer our customers a fully autonomous car."
The Hains and the Simonovskis have received Volvo XC90s fitted with Volvo's latest driver assistance technology as well as an array of cameras and sensors to monitor their behaviour and provide the car with information on its surroundings.
During these first stages, the families will keep their hands on the steering wheel and control the driving at all times when using their cars. Eventually, however, all participants in the Drive Me project will gradually be introduced to more advanced, assisted-driving cars, after receiving special training.
Even then, testing these more advanced cars will initially take place in controlled environments with supervision from a Volvo Cars safety expert. No technology will ever be introduced if there is any question over its safety.
This means Volvo Cars continues to develop autonomous cars with the same care and thoroughness that has helped it establish its position as the builder of some of the world's safest car.