EU agrees to bring self-driving cars to the roads
12:30 AM | April 20 2016

EU agrees to bring self-driving cars to the roads

Dr Trent Victor, Senior Technical Leader Crash Avoidance at Volvo Cars Safety Centre, explains how Volvo Cars helped to promote the cause of self-driving cars at a meeting of European transport ministers in Amsterdam.

“Self-driving cars that will make journeys safer and more enjoyable moved a step closer in Europe this week. I met with European transport ministers at an event in Amsterdam, where they endorsed an agreement to cooperate to ensure the smooth introduction of autonomous vehicles across the EU.

Volvo has been actively pushing for this kind of agreement because it will enable the right legislation to be put in place. This will mean that the full benefits of self-driving cars can be realised. In Sweden, new laws that will enable testing of self-driving cars were announced earlier this month.

Collaboration between countries is important, too. There are issues such as driving licences and cross-border travel, for example – if one country says its ok to travel without your hands on the steering wheel but another one says it’s not there could be a problem.

What we want to avoid is a patchwork of regulations. We spoke about this in Washington last year, and in China last week, and if Europe wants to take the lead it has to act in a unified way.

We demonstrated the latest version of our IntelliSafe Autopilot technology in an XC90 and new V90 to ministers. One of the big differences with our latest Autopilot technology is that you no longer need your hands on the wheel when driving in autonomous mode (even though the driver is legally responsible for driving the vehicle i.e. the driver needs to supervise). This is a big step, and we were able to get an exemption from the usual regulations to demonstrate this functionality on real roads.

Another improvement is the introduction of automated lane changes. Again, you don’t need your hands on the steering wheel – just flick the indicator stalk and, provided it’s safe to do so, the car steers itself into the lane. There’s also a better road-following function, which is smoother and can apply more steering lock to guide you around corners.

We are continually developing Autopilot technology, adding more features as we go. These are technical improvements that will improve the experience for customers, so that we have the right characteristics for the cars that will be used for the Drive Me trial and, ultimately, production cars.”