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Volvo Drive Me: How to integrate self-driving cars into real traffic‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

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During a press conference yesterday, Volvo announced that 100 self-driving cars will be put in the hands of customers on selected roads around Gothenburg, Sweden, by 2017. Each will feature the brand new Drive Me autonomous driving system.

The company explained that its fail-operational architecture includes backup systems that will ensure that Autopilot will continue to function safely also if an element of the system were to become disabled. 

Every possible scenario has been considered, Volvo insisted. For example, the probability of a brake system failure is very small, but a self-driving vehicle needs a second independent system to brake the vehicle to a stop, as it is unlikely that the driver will be prepared to press the brake pedal. 

When autonomous driving is no longer available – due to exceptional weather conditions, technical malfunction or the end of the route has been reached – the driver is prompted by the system to take over again. If the driver is incapacitated for any reason and does not take over in time, the car will bring itself to a safe place to stop.

Volvo's Drive Me system uses the following tools:

  • Sensors covering the entire surroundings (360 degrees);
  • Combined radar and camera placed in the windscreen (like in the XC90) to detect objects in the road;
  • Four radars behind the front and rear bumpers (one on each corner of the car);
  • Four cameras providing a 360-degree view (two are under the sideview mirrors, one is in the rear bumper and one is in the grille);
  • Multiple beam laser scanner (placed in the front of the vehicle);
  • Trifocal camera placed behind the upper part of the windshield to spot suddenly appearing pedestrians and other unexpected road hazards;
  • Long-range radars;
  • Ultrasonic sensors.

“Making this complex system 99% reliable is not good enough. You need to get much closer to 100% before you can let self-driving cars mix with other road users in real-life traffic,” says Dr Erik Coelingh, Technical Specialist at Volvo Cars.