Volvo takes the next leap

Volvo to in­te­grate self-drive cars in real traf­fic

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

VOLVO Cars presents a unique, com­plete sys­tem so­lu­tion that makes it pos­si­ble to in­te­grate self-driv­ing cars into real traf­fic, with or­di­nary peo­ple in the driver’s seat. The so­lu­tion was pre­sented last week via an in­ter­ac­tive, on­line press con­fer­ence.

“We are en­ter­ing un­charted ter­ri­tory in the field of au­ton­o­mous driv­ing,” said Dr Peter Mertens, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of re­search and devel­op­ment at Volvo Car Group. “Tak­ing the ex­cit­ing step to a public pi­lot, with the am­bi­tion to en­able or­di­nary peo­ple to sit be­hind the wheel in nor­mal traf­fic on public roads, has never been done be­fore.”

As the Drive Me project en­ters its sec­ond year, Volvo Cars is mov­ing rapidly to­wards the aim of plac­ing 100 self-driv­ing cars in the hands of cus­tomers on se­lected roads around Gothen­burg by 2017. The public pi­lot, a one-of-a-kind col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween leg­is­la­tors, trans­port au­thor­i­ties, a ma­jor city and a ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­turer, is a cen­tral com­po­nent of Volvo Cars’ plan to achieve sus­tain­able mo­bil­ity and en­sure a crash-free fu­ture.

Based on an ex­ten­sive anal­y­sis of po­ten­tial tech­ni­cal faults, Volvo Cars has de­signed a com­plete pro­duc­tion-vi­able au­ton­o­mous driv­ing sys­tem. The key to mak­ing this leap is a com­plex net­work of sen­sors, cloud-based po­si­tion­ing sys­tems and in­tel­li­gent brak­ing and steer­ing tech­nolo­gies.

“In the fu­ture, you will be able to choose be­tween au­ton­o­mous and ac­tive driv­ing,” said Mertens. “This trans­forms ev­ery­day com­mut­ing from lost time to qual­ity time, open­ing up new op­por­tu­ni­ties for work and plea­sure.”

Volvo Cars’ au­topi­lot sys­tem is de­signed to be re­li­able enough to al­low the car to take over ev­ery as­pect of driv­ing in au­ton­o­mous mode. The tech­nol­ogy ad­vances a cru­cial step be­yond the au­to­mo­tive sys­tems demon­strated so far since it in­cludes fault-tol­er­ant sys­tems.

“It is rel­a­tively easy to build and demon­strate a self-driv­ing con­cept ve­hi­cle, but if you want to cre­ate an im­pact in the real world, you have to de­sign and pro­duce a com­plete sys­tem that will be safe, ro­bust and af­ford­able for or­di­nary cus­tomers,” said Dr Erik Coel­ingh, a tech­ni­cal spe­cial­ist at Volvo Cars.

The main chal­lenge is to de­sign an au­topi­lot that is ro­bust for traf­fic sce­nar­ios as well as for tech­ni­cal faults that may oc­cur. It can­not be ex­pected that the driver will be ready to sud­denly in­ter­vene in a crit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion. Ini­tially, the cars will drive au­tonomously on se­lected roads with suit­able con­di­tions. For ex­am­ple, with­out on­com­ing traf­fic, cy­clists and pedes­tri­ans.

“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,” said Coel­ingh.

“Here, we have a sim­i­lar ap­proach to that of the air­craft in­dus­try. Our fail-op­er­a­tional ar­chi­tec­ture in­cludes back-up sys­tems that will en­sure that au­topi­lot will con­tinue to func­tion safely, also if an el­e­ment of the sys­tem was to be­come dis­abled.”

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

On the road, the com­plete tech­nol­ogy so­lu­tion will han­dle even the most com­pli­cated sce­nar­ios, from smooth com­mut­ing to heavy traf­fic and emer­gency sit­u­a­tions.

“Just as good driv­ers would do, po­ten­tially crit­i­cal sit­u­a­tions are ap­proached with sen­si­ble cau­tion. In a real emer­gency, how­ever, the car reacts faster than most hu­mans,” said Coel­ingh.

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.

In ad­di­tion, Volvo Cars ex­pects that au­ton­o­mous driv­ing will cut fuel con­sump­tion. The tech­nol­ogy could also im­prove traf­fic flow as well as open up pos­si­bil­i­ties for ur­ban plan­ning and more cost-ef­fi­cient in­vest­ments in in­fra­struc­ture.

— Sup­plied.

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