Apr. 30 - Swedish car-maker Volvo is testing a prototype self-driving car on public roads. The tests come ahead of a large scale pilot programme which will see one hundred autonomous Volvos navigating the streets of Gothenburg. Rob Muir reports.
Volvo's Andreas Ekenburg is quite comfortable behind the wheel of a car that drives itself. (SOUNDBITE)(English) VOLVO ACTIVE SAFETY ENGINEER ANDREAS EKENBERG SAYING: "The system is now controlling the acceleration and the brakes and also the steering wheel so it will keep the vehicle within the current lane." The technology has been proven reliable, but Volvo wants to see how well it works in a real world environment with mutliple vehicles, so they're planning to simultaneously test drive one hundred autonomous cars on the streets of Gothenburg in real traffic by 2017. SOUNDBITE)(English) VOLVO ACTIVE SAFETY ENGINEER ANDREAS EKENBERG SAYING: "They will actually integrate with the normal traffic, they will drive in the same lanes. They do not need any special lane markings or so. And one part of this project is to investigate how the surrounding traffic will react to an autonomous vehicle." Called the Drive Me project, it's a joint effort supported by Volvo and the Swedish government. Susanne Planath of the Swedish Transport Administration, says there will be significant benefits in taking humans out of the driving equation. She says it not will free them up to do other things while the car does all the work, it'll make driving safer because individual vehicles will be aware of and able to respond to what's around them. SOUNDBITE)(English) REGIONAL MARKET AND PLANNING MANAGER AT SWEDISH TRANSPORT ADMINISTRATION SUSANNE PLANATH SAYING: "If autonomous driving was to be fully implemented our expectations or our hopes are that we can see close to zero crashes in the system and of course that would be a large benefit." The Gothenburg experiment will look at several areas, from infrastructure requirements, to the reaction of other drivers on the road. And while it may take several more years, Andreas Ekenburg believes autonomous driving will fundamentally improve the driving experience. He says Volvo wants to be a pioneer in making the daily commute safer and more efficient.