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Driverless Volvo revealed ahead of Adelaide test

Look, no hands: Standing with the Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription are (l to r) South Australian transport minister Stephen Mullighan, Volvo managing director Kevin McCann and ARRB Group CEO Gerard Waldron.

Volvo XC90 to take centre stage in South Australian freeway driverless trial

5 Nov 2015

VOLVO is set to make motoring history this weekend, when its XC90 becomes the first vehicle to be legally driven on an Australian public road in autonomous mode.

The XC90 – a stock T6 Inscription – will be used in a trial this weekend in South Australia, where a section of freeway outside Adelaide will be closed to the public so that the conductors of the test, Australian company ARRB Group, can assess various facets of autonomous vehicle behaviour in a controlled environment.

The tests, conducted under the auspices of ARRB’s Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative, will include lane-changing, traffic behaviour, emergency stops and on- and off-ramp negotiation.

The test takes part at the conclusion of Australia’s first driverless vehicle conference, which featured presentations by world-renowned experts in the field of autonomous vehicles, including Volvo Car’s senior technical leader in crash avoidance Trent Victor.

Even though the closed-road trial does not require it, the South Australian parliament has passed into law a bill that allows the use of autonomous vehicles on the state’s roads.

The Motor Vehicles (Trials of Automotive Technologies) Amendment Bill provides exemptions from current laws to allow the ongoing trial of the emerging technology.

“This legislation will facilitate public road testing, unlike many other countries which offer only selected roads or small, restricted geographical areas,” said South Australian transport minister Stephen Mullighan.

“Our government is providing the conditions for these trials to occur in South Australia because we recognise the immense benefits that autonomous vehicles and intelligent transport systems will bring to our communities.”

Volvo Car Australia managing director Kevin McCann said that the company was proud to be partnered with ADVI.

“Autonomous Drive technology is already available in many cars in the Australian market,” he said.

“It is important that collectively as an industry we strive to educate the public regarding this development, and importantly encourage government to make the necessary regulatory changes to facilitate the introduction of autonomous drive vehicles to Australian roads.”

Meanwhile, Volvo engineers are also in Canberra, conducting research into a uniquely Australian problem kangaroo strikes.

There are more than 20,000 recorded kangaroo collisions each year, costing insurance companies more than $75 million in claims.

Current Volvos are fitted with pedestrian detection technology based around radar and camera systems that are tuned to city environs, and it has been calibrated to detect large animals at highway speeds.

As Australian drivers know all too well, though, the behaviour of kangaroos is erratic and unpredictable, so a team from Trollhattan is conducting research at the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve in the ACT, collating data on kangaroo behaviour for implementation into its detection algorithms.

“In Sweden we have done research involving larger, slower moving animals like elk, reindeer and cows, which are a serious threat on our roads,” said Volvo Cars’ lead safety engineer, Martin Magnussen. “Kangaroos are smaller than these animals and their behaviour is more erratic. This is why it’s important that we test and calibrate our technology on real kangaroos in their natural environment.”

The system will be designed to detect kangaroos and slow the vehicle automatically if required.

“Volvo Cars’ City Safety truly is state of the art technology, because the brakes can be primed in milliseconds, much faster than a human,” said Mr Magnusson. “We are only at the beginning of what is possible.”

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