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Volvo’s Self-Driving Car Project is Heading to London

Volvo is expanding its self-driving car experiment to London in 2017.Volvo is expanding its self-driving car experiment to London in 2017.
Volvo is expanding its self-driving car experiment to London in 2017.Courtesy of Volvo

Volvo is expanding its self-driving car project to London, marking just the latest step by the automaker to test and roll out the sci-fi technology on public roads.

Starting next year, families will drive a limited number of semi-autonomous cars on London’s streets so that Volvo and its partner, Thatcham Research, can collect and analyze driving data in real-world driving conditions. In 2018, the project will expand to include 100 fully autonomous cars—which means the car takes over all safety-critical functions and monitors roadway conditions.

Volvo, along with the rest of the auto industry, has been aggressively developing semi-autonomous and fully autonomous driving technology. Volvo’s goal, other than keeping up with its rivals, is that no drivers will be seriously injured or killed in a new Volvo by the year 2020.

The automaker also believes introducing autonomous driving will reduce traffic and pollution as well as create more valuable free time for drivers.

“Autonomous driving represents a leap forward in car safety,” Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive said in a statement. “The sooner autonomous driving cars are on the roads, the sooner lives will start being saved.”

Independent research has revealed that autonomous driving has the potential to reduce the number of car accidents significantly, in some cases by up to 30 percent, Volvo says.

Volvo has been working on its self-driving car project, called Drive Me, since at least 2013, when it announced plans to launch a project in Gothenburg, Sweden next year. The company will make 100 XC90 self-driving model Volvos available to drivers there for use in everyday driving conditions including inclement weather, on one road that loops around the city.

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Earlier this month, Volvo announced that it would expand a separate self-driving car project to China that it announced three weeks ago. Volvo, which was acquired by Zhejiang Geely Holding of China in 2010, has not picked a Chinese city for the project or disclosed when it will start.

“There are multiple benefits to autonomous driving cars,” Samuelsson said in a statement. “That is why governments globally need to put in place the legislation and infrastructure to allow AD cars onto the streets as soon as possible. The car industry cannot do it all by itself. We need governmental help.”

Samuelsson’s push for government action coincides with the formation of a just-announced self-driving car coalition—which Volvo is an initiating member of along with Ford, Alphabet’s Google (GOOG), as well as ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft. The coalition is essentially a lobbying group that is pushing for federal action on self-driving cars.