Cars that are capable of driving themselves, communicating with each other and that won’t crash? This is the future of personal transport – and it begins here.
Trent Victor (left) and Marcus Rothoff (right)
Self-driving cars will change the way we live and work, the society we live in and the cities we inhabit. They will make roads safer, reduce congestion and turn the hours spent commuting into time you can use.
Volvo Cars’ Trent Victor and Marcus Rothoff are at the forefront of the revolution. Both are deeply involved with Volvo’s autonomous cars programme: Trent, Senior Technical Leader Crash Avoidance, works on developing the safety technology. Marcus, Autonomous Driving Programme Director, is in charge of the Drive Me project, the world’ first large-scale public trial of self-driving cars. Here, they tell us about their work and what autonomous cars will mean for you.
How close is Volvo to launching an autonomous car?
Trent: “Our latest cars already use aspects of autonomous technology, where the driver is still responsible. For example there’s Pilot Assist which, by reading lane markings, helps to keep you in your lane with light steering inputs, while Adaptive Cruise Control helps maintain a distance to cars in front.”
When will we see fully autonomous Volvo cars on the road?
Trent: We will have a commercial offer around 2020, but prior to that we will test our technology within the Drive Me trial which includes 100 customers driving on public streets in Gothenburg. Drive Me is a research project starting in 2017 and ending in 2019.
What are the benefits of autonomous cars?
Marcus: “Autonomous cars will be as revolutionary as the mobile phone; they will make your life better in so many ways by introducing a huge convenience factor. You can choose to use all the entertainment on offer to you but even your standard drive to work will be enhanced.
You could have a meeting, send emails or write a presentation on the way to work, perhaps allowing you to leave for home earlier. It will improve your work-life balance.”
"Our technology will work on a subconscious level. Like breathing, you won’t even need to think about it."
Senior Technical Leader Crash Avoidance
You could even say that it’s like you are building a time machine.
Marcus: “Yes, it’s a bit like a time machine in that sense. Even commuting one hour to work is too much. We’re giving people their time back.”
How will Volvo Cars’ technology enable this?
Trent: “Our technology will involve continuous control rather than responses to incidents. So, instead of warnings that the driver has to respond to, the technology will operate continuously and react automatically and instantly to threats.”
So it works almost on a subconscious level?
Trent: “Exactly. Like breathing or your sense of balance, you won’t even need to think about it.”
This is a massive shift in technology. It’s making driving more natural, isn’t it?
Trent: “Your brain’s perception of time and space is not the same as your conscious experience. In order to prompt an instant avoidance manoeuvre, for instance, we focus on creating instinctive cues rather than display a warning on a screen, which the driver then has to absorb, process and respond to.”
An autonomous car won’t require any driver action, then?
Trent: “When your car is in autonomous mode, that’s correct. By taking care of all the driving, it will allow you to fully relax. But you won’t drive everywhere in autonomous mode, so we will have technology that will warn the driver sooner and more instinctively, giving them more time to react.”
“The car will behave in a way that you really trust, so you can then use your time as you wish.”
Autonomous Driving Programme Director