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Volvo to offer two driverless vehicle solutions

Nap time: The Volvo 360c is essentially a bedroom on wheels, allowing occupants to sleep as they are autonomously transported to their chosen destination.

Autonomous pods coming but Volvo says it will still build driver’s cars

12 Nov 2018

VOLVO Car Australia managing director Nick Connor says the Swedish car-maker will offer two types of autonomous vehicles in the future – one that caters purely for commuters, and another that will still appeal to driving enthusiasts.
In an exclusive interview with GoAuto, Mr Connor also said that autonomous technology was easily outpacing regulation, meaning that a mainstream rollout of fully driverless vehicles was some way off in Australia.
In September, Volvo revealed its 360c concept – a fully autonomous pod-like vehicle that the company says “explores what becomes possible when we remove the human driver”.
The 360c’s “sleeping environment” positions it as a potential replacement for domestic air travel, according to Volvo.
Mr Connor said there would be a market in the future for autonomous pods to ferry occupants from place to place, but he also believes that Volvo will offer vehicles that can still be driven.
“I think there will be two types of cars, and you mentioned the 360 concept,” he said. “That’s a hotel room on wheels and I love the idea of it. I don’t want to drive that. You can’t drive it.
“I think there will be a separation between those vehicles that are almost 100 per cent full autonomous use and those vehicles that have part-time autonomous functionality. 
“And I think we will probably do both. But for the cars that can be driven, there still has to be some driving pleasure and enjoyment from it to be had.”
Mr Connor agreed that Volvo has a similar attitude to other manufacturers, namely Jaguar and Porsche, which have both previously stated that all of their future models with autonomous functionality should still be enjoyable to drive.
“People buy those sorts of cars to drive them in the right conditions. And I think, with proper autonomy in those cars, you get the best of both worlds. You can switch off or nap or read when you want to on that 110km/h straight road to Canberra (from Sydney). 
“(And) when you're driving through the Blue Mountains and you want to have a different experience, you can actually enjoy the driving.”
Mr Connor said Australia was some way off passing legislation that would allow autonomous vehicles to be driven on local roads, but believed it would be a gradual process.
“I think the technology is there or it’s nearly there, in some cases, and we don’t see level four autonomy as being that far away for us technically. We’re already testing cars in Sweden on the road with level four autonomy.
“It comes down to the regulators and customer acceptance as well because people need to feel comfortable that this technology works. 
“And I think the first step will be ... there’ll be certain roads where maybe the government says, ‘From this point to this point, straight road, good lines, good markings, the cars can be driven in autonomous mode’. And I think we need to get everybody comfortable.”
Mr Connor said legislators were “understandably hesitant” to legislate on driverless cars, given the issues that could arise “the very first time a car crashes in autonomous mode”.
“But that ignores the fact that dozens of cars are crashing everyday around the world,” he added.
He said Volvo’s Pilot Assist – offered as an option on most of Volvo’s current model range – has some semi-autonomous features that technically make it possible to drive most of the way from Sydney to Canberra, only occasionally touching the steering wheel.
“I don’t think it’s a huge leap to get there, but I think we’ve got to ... and I think consumers will experience that and say ‘This is great’. And then we’ve got to persuade legislators that in the right environment, it’s still safe. 
“I think we’re a long way away from having autonomous cars driving through the centre of Sydney, much as I would love to jump in my car here and let my car take me over the bridge or under the tunnel and get in the right lane.” 
Volvo – which has been owned by Chinese giant Zhejiang Geely Holding since 2010 – has poured enormous resources into research and development for autonomous tech and has been involved in a number of driverless car trials, including in Sweden, South Australia and Victoria.
Volvo has also partnered with ride-sharing service Uber on a fleet of autonomous XC90s. The Uber trial was scaled back late last year after a vehicle operating in autonomous model fatally crashed into a pedestrian.
As part of its Vision 2020 plan under the directive of Volvo Cars president and CEO Hakan Samuelsson, the company has a vision “that by 2020 no one should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo car”.

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