“Now we can add the dimension of time”

Marcus Rothoff, Volvo Cars’ Autonomous Driving Programme Director, explains what the Drive Me pilot project will achieve 

Could you tell us a bit more about how Volvo Cars’ Drive Me program will work? 

We are building the prototype cars now and in 2017 the first customers will get their autonomous-driving (AD) cars. 

Before that, some customers will have the opportunity to explore how their life will change with autonomous driving. We will spend time with them to gain an understanding of how they use their current car, to see how an AD car will make a difference. 

When they finally get their AD car we will work with them to understand how autonomous driving becomes a natural part of life. We want to know how fast they get used to it, does it fit in their life, what’s important for them, how can we build trust? If our customers don’t trust the car they will not be able to use the extra time it will give them. 

Before the first customers get their AD cars they will be verified to be totally safe. Our target is to build autonomous driving cars that should not crash. 

Which cars will be used in Drive Me? 

They will be XC90s. 

What sort of conversations do you need to have with road authorities to make autonomous cars work? 

“In the Drive Me project we have the Swedish Transport Administration and the Swedish Transport Agency as partners. The Transport Administration is responsible for the infrastructure and the Transport Agency is responsible for the laws. 

We are investigating how we can adapt the infrastructure to make more use of self-driving cars, but we also have to make a solution that is possible to use in the current infrastructure because otherwise we will never be able to offer it. 

Most important for us is that we have the barrier to the oncoming traffic and a detailed map so we know where we are. In the future we can improve roads to get more out of autonomous driving, both when it comes to available road section, but also societal opportunities such as reduced congestions, improved traffic safety and sustainability. 

For example, autonomous driving cars can optimise the capacity on congested roads by information sharing and cooperative control. Being able to communicate and optimise overall flow will open up new possibilities when it comes to traffic planning. Roads can be changed for new optimisations, such as more narrow lanes. 

What are the implications of autonomous-driving cars for insurance companies? 

We are discussing the Drive Me project with different insurance companies to study how insurance will evolve in the future. 

Autonomous driving cars will be designed with an overall aim that they shall not crash. Most studies show that in 90 to 95 per cent of all accidents there is a human factor involved. This will of course have an impact on insurance, with significantly less claims. 

What would you say is different about Volvo Cars’ approach to autonomous driving? 

We are focusing customer value with autonomous driving. One of the main offers we can give our customers is the possibility to safely use the lost time during commuting. 

This means that we have to push for legislation and awareness that our drivers shall not be responsible when the car is in autonomous driving mode. 

How far off are we from having fully autonomous production cars on the road? 

We are aiming for 2020, but only in selected areas, probably some cities were autonomous driving can make a real difference for our customers. Our Drive Me project will have autonomous driving cars on public roads in limited numbers in 2017. We will grow from there. 

Do you think people are ready for it? 

Yes. If we look at what people do during their commute today they are more than ready. When sitting in slow-moving traffic time is just flowing away and we all want to maximise the time we have. 

How will IntelliSafe Autopilot technology revolutionise journeys? 

It will open up a new dimension of car ownership – now you can have free access to time during your journeys as well. 

Cars have always been a symbol of freedom. The freedom to travel where and whenever you want. Exploring the driving experience, the luxury and the ride of your car. Now we can add the dimension of time.