February 10, 2018
In 2012, Volvo announced its innovative Drive Me project, helping to place autonomous vehicles in the hands of potential consumers. Early on, Volvo proclaimed that the manufacturer would have 100 self-driving cars on the road, however, the updated goal is to have 100 people enrolled in the Drive Me program by the end of 2021.
The initial phase of this project will involve consumers testing Level 2 vehicles that are semi-autonomous. This is the same type of autonomous vehicle available commercially to consumers in the United States and in Europe.
Volvo’s Drive Me program is a public autonomous driving experiment of sorts. Test subjects will start with families in Sweden and eventually grow to include those in China and London. The main goal of the project is to receive feedback from drivers regarding the Volvo model with Level 4 autonomy. A Level 4 vehicle, can drive itself but still allows a driver to regain control, if needed, with a steering wheel and pedals.
Marcus Rothoff, the director of Volvo’s Drive Me program, recently told Automotive News Europe that some aspects of the project have been much easier with less time involved than they expected. On the other hand, there have been some areas that they predicted would have quick solutions that have proven to be just the opposite.
One of the former issues is selecting a sensor set which is going much quicker than the automaker projected in 2013. However, because of the quickly advancing technologies, Rofhoff reports that Volvo wants to wait to pick a sensor set until it is absolutely necessary.
Another aim of Volvo’s project is to help consumers feel comfortable with autonomous vehicles. They want them to be confident of the new technology. Volvo knows that if car-buyers are not completely confident with it, they won’t want to use it. If Volvo were to fail in this area, autonomous vehicles would have a limited value with customers while still costing the company a small fortune.
Volvo is looking to create an autonomous vehicle that consumers all over the globe would be willing to pay a premium for. The vehicle must also be extremely safe. Volvo believes that much of the car's value will come from a consumer’s ability to buy free time. Instead of driving themselves to the office in the morning they can be reading the newspaper, eating breakfast, catching up on emails, or even checking into an online meeting.
Some families in Sweden now have access to one of these Volvo autonomous vehicles. Right now, they drive the cars in controlled environments like closed test tracks with supervision. Eventually, they will be able to use the advanced assisted-driving features of the vehicle. Time will tell if the Drive Me project will make some consumers a believer in the Volvo autonomous vehicle.