While many automobile manufacturers are working on self-driving cars, few have been willing to place a timeline on the release of the new technology. Volvo has now announced that it plans to release an initial batch of self-driving cars in 2014. The Swedish company, long considered a leader in safety technology, indicates that it hopes to release a ‘no death’ car fleet by 2020. The cars are intended to be impossible to crash though the expedient of loading the car with sensors that will make it impossible to steer the vehicle into other objects.
According to Volvo’s head of government affairs, “our vision is that no one is killed or injured in a new Volvo by 2020.” The aggressive goal is part of an expanding movement in the car industry to provide technological aids to driving that reduce a driver’s ability to make dangerous mistakes. The analogy used by the company was that of an older form of transportation, the farmer’s horse. The farmer can steer the horse, but if he falls asleep, the horse will not walk into a tree or off a cliff.
Volvo has tested prototypes on its private track, as well as on public roads in Spain. The head of development for Volvo’s driver assistance technology said, “We are convinced this is the future and we want to get there first.” While the company is confident that self-driving cars will become the norm, there are several hurdles that must be overcome. The laws in EU countries and the UK currently prevent self-driving vehicles. Also, it remains to be seen if consumers will be willing to relinquish control and place their fate in the hands of a computer.
Source: Daily Mail, “Volvo develops the ‘no death’ car: Vehicles which drive themselves and are totally crashproof could be on British roads in eight years,” by Ray Massey, 4 December 2012