Volvo currently offers a few semi-autonomous features on its vehicles. The S90 has a new Pilot Assist function, which can accelerate, brake, and steer the car, while keeping itself a set distance from the car ahead of it and keeping itself within its lane. In addition, all Volvos include the City Safety system as a standard feature, which detects upcoming vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, or other large objects, warning the driver and assisting with braking if necessary. Volvo also offers Park Assist Pilot, which can reverse into a parking spot or parallel park into a space that is just 1.2 times the size of the car itself. The driver must control the gear, brakes and accelerator, but the steering is controlled by the vehicle.
Like most other car companies, though, Volvo is working to move beyond these features toward what they coin a “highly autonomous car,” which can operate in a driverless mode on certain roads.
Volvo’s highly autonomous car software is referred to as the IntelliSafe Autopilot, which you can read about in detail on their website at http://www.volvocars.com/intl/About/Our-Innovation-Brands/IntelliSafe/IntelliSafe-Autopilot#. Volvo plans to begin real-world testing of this system in 2017 with a project called the “Drive Me” trial, when 100 Volvo customers will begin driving IntelliSafe Autopilot equipped XC90s on Swedish Roads. These test drives will occur in Gothenburg, which Volvo describes as having perfect commuter routes for testing with no pedestrians and plenty of separation between lanes. Volvo’s driverless system will allow the driver to relinquish control to the car on specific types of roads, but will still require human control on other roads (and allow it on any).
The Volvo autopilot system will use GPS along with several “seeing” tools, including four cameras to both detect upcoming objects and keep track of lane markings. In addition, four radar transmitters will provide the car with an all-around view of its surroundings. When the car travels at lower speeds, the system will also use 12 ultrasonic sensors to detect approaching objects, and at all speeds a laser scanner with a 150 meter range will be used to warn of hazards.
One point that Volvo has emphasized many times is that, when operating in autonomous mode, its car will be a Level 4 autonomous car. Volvo believes that it is dangerous to have a semi-autonomous mode that “tricks” the driver into thinking the car is capable of doing more than it actually can. Volvo asserts that when its car is on self-driving mode, it will not alert and turn control back to the human driver automatically, but will instead be able to handle any situation it comes across and be able to safely stop itself at the side of the road if necessary. Volvo stresses that the car will not simply turn off the autonomous mode, which it believes is a dangerous concept. Volvo has also stated on multiple occasions that it will take responsibility for any accidents that occur while the car is in autonomous mode. To read more about this concept, visit http://www.theverge.com/2016/4/27/11518826/volvo-tesla-autopilot-autonomous-self-driving-car.
Volvo hopes to have a car on the market that is capable of fully autonomous highway driving in 2021. Reports in 2016 indicate that the car will still have a steering wheels and pedals, allowing for traditional driving when desired, and cost around $10,000 more than a traditional model.