Volvo appears to be applying the brakes to its Drive Me project to publicly test driverless cars but still aims to have a fully autonomous vehicle commercially available within four years.
The carmaker handed over the first XC90 premium SUVs to two Swedish families, who will test them on the public roads of Gothenburg and feed back their impressions to its engineers.
The Hain family with their new Volvo SUV
However the two vehicles have similar technology to that which is already commercially available, equivalent to Level 2 autotomy, rather than the ‘100 self-driving Volvos on public roads’ the firm has previously said the programme would comprise.
Volvo said the vehicles are fitted with its latest driver assistance technology and an array of cameras and sensors to monitor their behaviour and provide the car with information on its surroundings.
Henrik Green, senior vice president for the company’s R&D department, said: ‘Drive Me is an important research project for Volvo Cars. We expect to learn a lot from engaging these families and will use their experiences to shape the development of our autonomous driving technology, so that by 2021 we can offer our customers a fully autonomous car.’
The firm said both families will contribute to Drive Me with invaluable data by allowing engineers at the company to monitor their everyday use and interaction with the car, ‘as they drive to work, bring the kids to school or go shopping for groceries’.
It said: ‘During these first stages, the families will keep their hands on the steering wheel and supervise the driving at all times when using their cars. But, over time, all participants in the Drive Me project will gradually be introduced to more advanced assisted driving cars, after receiving special training.
‘Even then, testing these more advanced cars will initially take place in controlled environments with supervision from a Volvo Cars safety expert. No technology will ever be introduced if there is any question over its safety.’
The firm that three more families will follow early next year and that over the next four years up to 100 people will be involved in Drive Me.