WHILE companies like Google, Mercedes-Benz and Tesla have been testing autonomous vehicles across the world, Volvo will be the first to introduce driverless cars to Aussie roads when it does so in November.
Combined with road research agency ARRB Group, Volvo will demonstrate driverless vehicle technology on South Australian roads.
Volvo’s soon to be launched XC90 SUV will have its existing autonomous features specially programmed for the trial to be able to be operated hands free, within a controlled environment.
The programming will take advantage of adaptive cruise control and pilot assist functions which keeps the car in between lanes and stops them from running into cars in front.
Volvo’s managing director Kevin McCann said in a statement that more trials will follow the initial test in South Australia.
“The trials in South Australia this November will be the first of many trials nationally, with discussions underway in a number of jurisdictions. ARRB Group is calling for additional states, territories and partners to support this important national research initiative. We’re seeking technology and automotive industry partners to assist us in Australia’s driverless vehicle innovation,” he said.
The hype behind self driving cars from the likes of Volvo, Google, Tesla and Mercedes-Benz isn’t just because people are too lazy to drive themselves, but for the genuine possibility of fatality-free roads.
Google’s self-driving car director Chris Urmon wrote in May that while that fatality-free future through driverless cars is possible, at the moment smaller accidents caused by other cars with human drivers is still a problem.
“Even when our software and sensors can detect a sticky situation and take action earlier and faster than an alert human driver, sometimes we won’t be able to overcome the realities of speed and distance; sometimes we’ll get hit just waiting for a light to change,” Urmon said.
Google’s cars have been in 11 accidents since they’ve been on the road, however Google claims that none of them were the driverless cars’ fault.
“We’ve been hit from behind seven times, mainly at traffic lights but also on the freeway. We’ve also been sideswiped a couple of times and hit by a car rolling through a stop sign,” Urmon added.
Tesla’s Model S will be one of the first cars in Australia to see something close to autonomous driving through a software update due to be released this year. The update will give the car the ability to drive itself on highways without any input from the driver, however it won’t be able to drive you home after a few drinks from the local pub.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said he believes we are only a few years away from having fully-autonomous cars.
Speaking earlier this year at the GPU Technology Conference in California he said: “Autonomy is really about what level of reliability and safety do you want. Even with the current sensor suite, we could make the car go fully autonomous, but not to a level of reliability that would be safe in, say, a complex urban environment where […] children are playing,” Musk said.
Adding that, “I almost view it as a solved problem. We know exactly what to do, and we’ll be there in a few years.”
Traditional car makers like Mercedes and Audi are also looking to jump into the autonomous car game, with plans to have some kind of driverless car by 2020. Reports also suggest that Apple is looking to enter the game around that time, too.
While Volvo is looking to have more than 100 autonomous cars on the road in Sweden in the next 2 years.
With the technology all but developed, the next biggest hurdle will be legislation, but if the tests in South Australia go well, that shouldn’t be as big of a problem as first expected.