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Volvo to Put Autonomous Vehicles Into Consumer Hands for Test

Executive Summary

The Swedish automaker’s U.K.-based trial will differentiate itself by using families to drive the AD cars on public roads.

Volvo is to begin the U.K.’s most ambitious autonomous-driving trial next year, saying it wants to speed up the introduction of a technology that promises to massively reduce car accidents as well as free up congested roads.

The Swedish automaker is pushing the development of AD systems globally as part of its commitment no one will be seriously injured or killed in a new Volvo by 2020.

The U.K. program will begin in early 2017 with a limited number of semi-autonomous cars and expand in 2018 to include up to 100 AD cars, making it the largest and most extensive AD testing program on Britain’s streets.

Volvo President and CEO Håkan Samuelsson says AD represents a leap forward in car safety.

“The sooner AD cars are on the roads, the sooner lives will start being saved,” he says in a statement.

Samuelsson will detail his AD plans at a seminar sponsored by Volvo and Thatcham, the insurance industry’s research organization, in London May 3 examining the insurance-industry implications of AD.

Samuelsson says Volvo’s U.K.-based trial will differentiate itself from other test programs by using families driving AD cars on public roads.

Volvo will use the data from these everyday users to develop AD cars suitable for real-world driving conditions, rather than the more unrealistic conditions found on test tracks.

Thatcham Research will provide the technical data analysis and any professional test drivers needed as part of the trial.

Volvo says the introduction of AD cars promises to revolutionize Britain’s roads in four main areas – safety, congestion, pollution and time-saving.

It cites independent research finding AD has the potential to reduce the number of car accidents up to 30%. Up to 90% of all accidents now are caused by driver error or distraction – something Volvo says should largely disappear with AD cars.

Thatcham Research CEO Peter Shaw says vehicle manufacturers are predicting highly autonomous vehicles capable of allowing the driver to drop “out of the loop” for certain sections of their journey will be available from around 2021.

“Without doubt, crash frequency will also dramatically reduce,” Shaw says in a statement. “We’ve already seen this with the adoption of autonomous emergency braking on many new cars.”

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