Volvo said Thursday that it is planning an experiment involving autonomous vehicles in China, in which around 100 such cars could be rolled out. In a statement, the Swedish automaker said local drivers will test the cars on public roads in average daily conditions.
Volvo testing self-driving cars
The Swedish company’s executives told Reuters that the experiment will be conducted in limited driving conditions situations such as on express roads and highways. Volvo is will soon launch a similar test in Sweden as it aims to start rolling out autonomous vehicles next year.
Currently, Volvo is searching for a city that could provide the necessary permissions, infrastructure and regulations to go ahead with the experiment. The Swedish automaker did not comment on when it is hoping to conduct the tests.
One executive (who refused to be named because he is not authorized to share details of the plans before they are declared officially) told Reuters, “What we’re doing is giving these cars to people and using real people as our data set, so the information they generate will help us implement the technology.”
Apart from Volvo, other automakers and tech firms like Tesla, Google, Audi and probably Apple are also working on self-driving cars. But among all of them, Volvo is probably the most aggressive. Last year, it came up with a design to allow drivers to activate and deactivate the autonomous mode using specially-designed paddles on the steering wheel.
To benefit from pledges in China
Volvo has been trying to benefit from the pledges made by central government policymakers in China, the world’s biggest auto market, to embrace new technologies such as self-driving cars, and the latest move is probably a part of it. A Volvo executive familiar with the planned experiment said the automaker wants to send a message to the Chinese government to make good on the “strident” pledges of commitment to autonomous driving technology made in recent months by calling on cities in China to sign up to participate in the program.
According to Erick Coelingh, Volvo’s autonomous-driving chief, nothing is settled yet, but the Swedish automaker is scouting for drivers who commute into the city via the highway. These people will be selected to represent the diversity of Volvo’s customer base, though with the condition that they do not drink and drive.
“The challenges with the Chinese road transportation system are huge,” but Coelingh says, but adds that self-driving cars will be part of the solution. In 2010, the Chinese automaker Geely acquired Volvo from Ford, and now China is the brand’s biggest market.