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Volvo's Autonomous Cars
Autonomous cars – vehicles that can drive themselves without human involvement – have featured in countless science fiction films for decades, yet they are set to become reality in the near future.
Autonomous driving technology has developed at a rapid rate in recent years – to the extent that a fully self-driving car is likely to be ready long before questions about legislation, liability and even ethics have been answered.
A Volvo autonomous car capable of unsupervised driving, for example, is anticipated to be ready by 2021.
Sensors are ultimately the key to the speed of autonomous-car development, as they become increasingly smarter and faster in how they monitor and react to the surrounding environment in terms of both static and moving objects.
The 5 levels of autonomous
Autonomous driving is categorised into five levels (or six, if you want to include Level 0 that involves no automation whatsoever). The higher the level, the lower the input required by a driver.
Basic, partial driver assistance systems such as cruise control (where the car maintains a set driver-selected speed, as well as distance with an adaptive system) or parking aids (where the car steers into a space but the driver controls braking and accelerating). The driver remains chiefly responsible for the operation of the vehicle.
Autonomous driving takes a step up here, with steering and speed controlled by one or more vehicle systems using stereo cameras, radar, and sensors. It allows for brief periods of hands-free driving, though the (human) driver must be ready to resume control at short notice and is responsible for other elements of driving. Volvo Cars’ Pilot Assist system is an example of Level 2 technology.
Combining more advanced sensors with the likes of laser scanning and radar, level 3 autonomous driving systems can monitor the driving environment surrounding the vehicle and make decisions themselves without driver input. A driver can intervene – and must be able to retake control of the vehicle at any time.
Here, the driver has the option to give an autonomous vehicle full command of every aspect of driving – and doesn’t need to respond to a request from the system to intervene, as the car is equipped to adapt to changing traffic conditions and even handle potentially hazardous situations. It’s even possible for the driver to have a sleep, though they must be fit to drive in case needed.
This is the holy grail of self driving cars cars – where artificial intelligence assumes control for fully automated, unsupervised driving with no human involvement required. The ‘driver’ simply becomes another passenger as such autonomous vehicles have no need for a steering wheel, pedals or other driving controls.
Volvo and autonomous cars
Volvo Cars technology has been supporting drivers for years already, with various semi-autonomous and autonomous systems on several of its models.
City Safety was a ground-breaking autonomous emergency braking system introduced in 2008, and is now standard on all Volvo vehicles. Refined ever since, the system can detect obstacles ahead – whether vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists or large animals – and apply the brakes automatically to help avoid an accident if the driver doesn’t respond.
Adaptive Cruise Control with Queue Assist was one of the first steps towards the self-driving car. Demonstrating partial autonomous driving capability, ACC can take care of the vehicle’s acceleration and braking from standstill up to 130km/h.
ACC allows the driver to set a consistent vehicle speed and set distance to the vehicle ahead. The driver can also adjust the length of the gap to that vehicle.
If the vehicle ahead slows or stops, Adaptive Cruise Control will decelerate your car accordingly – bringing it to a complete stop, if necessary. It will then apply acceleration automatically when traffic starts moving again, raising speed to the selected maximum limit.
Stand out from the hatchback crowd with sophisticated design, signature safety features and innovative technology.
- 1.5L turbo charged petrol engine producing 112kW / 250Nm
- Park Assist
- Sensus Connect interface
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In 2017, Volvo Cars launched a large-scale autonomous driving project in Gothenburg which allowed real people to experience self-driving cars on public roads.
The company anticipates that its first vehicles capable of unsupervised driving will be ready by 2021.