Volvo Cars’ first autonomous drive (AD) ready car entered the next stage of pre-series production at Volvo’s manufacturing plant in Torslanda, Sweden this week ahead of full production start later in 2019.
The AD-ready XC90 SUV, developed together with Uber, marks a key milestone in the strategic collaboration between the two companies since its joint venture began in 2016.
Volva says pre-series production refers to the stage in the manufacturing process that is undertaken before full-fledged mass scale production. These cars are built in limited numbers for testing and verification purposes.
The two companies have developed several prototypes aimed at accelerating the companies’ self-driving car development.
The autonomous drive-capable production vehicle is part of Volvo Cars’ 2016 commercial agreement with Uber for the delivery of tens of thousands of autonomous drive-ready base cars in coming years.
The AD-ready XC90 SUV, is developed on the SPA2 modular platform, and comes equipped with features that facilitate the introduction of autonomous drive systems and robotaxi services. The automaker also says that the car is equipped with back-up systems for functions such as steering, braking and the battery. If any of the primary systems fail, these systems would immediately act to bring the car to a safe stop instead of relying on a human driver to achieve the task.
The XC90 is one of the first autonomous drive-ready cars in the world and previews the type of autonomous base platform that will be available to consumers on SPA2 cars from the early 2020s, claims the firm.
Volvo says this XC90 SUV is the first production car that in combination with Uber’s self-driving system is capable of fully driving itself.
"The XC90 base vehicle is equipped with key safety features that allow Uber to easily install its own self-driving system, enabling the possible future deployment of self-driving cars in Uber’s network as an autonomous ride-sharing service. The most important features of Volvo Cars’ autonomous drive-ready production vehicle include several back-up systems for both steering and braking functions as well as battery back-up power," says the automaker.
"In addition to Volvo’s built-in back-up systems, an array of sensors atop and built into the vehicle are designed for Uber’s self-driving system to safely operate and maneuver in an urban environment. When paired with Volvo’s vehicle platform, Uber’s self-driving system may one day allow for safe, reliable autonomous ride-sharing without the need for a Mission Specialist, the specially trained Uber employees operating and overseeing the car in areas designated and suitable for autonomous drive."
The automaker says it plans to use a similar autonomous base vehicle concept for the introduction of its future autonomous drive cars in the early 2020s.
"Volvo Cars believes autonomous drive can generate significant potential road safety benefits for society as a whole when all cars are autonomous. Until that moment, the technology can offer customers a better driving experience by taking away mundane tasks such as stop-start driving in traffic jams."
According to Greg Maruszewski, managing director of Volvo Car South Africa, the advent of Volvo Cars' autonomous drive-ready production vehicle bodes well for road safety in South Africa in the future.
"Whilst we don’t expect to see these vehicles on our roads in the short term, when they do arrive, they can only serve to have a positive effect on road safety for people traveling in and around the car,” says Maruszewski.
In the meantime, Maruszewski says the company is already offering motorists some of the safest cars in the country.
"Ever since we invented the three-point safety belt in 1959, Volvo has been synonymous with safety. Our cars offer a host of impressive safety features – Pilot Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, Distance Alert, City Safety, Lane Keeping Aid, Run-Off road Mitigation, Driver Alert Control, Road Sign Information … to name but a few. So, while our autonomous cars will represent a safe leap into the future, I’m very proud to say that the vehicles that we currently offer already boast impeccable safety credentials,” he concludes.