Swedish Families Help With Volvo Self-Driving Car Development

Families in Gothenburg will test cars with different levels of driver assists.

Volvo is calling on families in its hometown of Gothenburg, Sweden, to help develop self-driving cars. As part of the automaker's "Drive Me" program, families will be given test cars to use as their daily drivers on public roads, and then provide feedback and data to Volvo engineers.

While Volvo is testing fully-autonomous prototypes, it won't hand those over to the families, at least not yet. The first two families, the Hains and Simonovskis, received XC90s with driver-assist systems that still require human drivers to keep their hands on the wheel at all times. Onboard sensors and cameras monitor the driver's behavior.

"But, over time, all participants in the Drive Me project will gradually be introduced to more advanced assisted-driving cars, after receiving special training," a Volvo press release said. Testing of those vehicles may take place on closed courses rather than public roads, with Volvo experts on hand.

Volvo plans to launch an autonomous production car by 2021 and expects data gleaned from the Drive Me test families to aid in development. Three more families get test cars early next year. Volvo expects up to 100 people to be involved in the program over the next four years. The automaker's self-driving production car is expected to achieve SAE Level 4 autonomy, meaning it will be able to drive itself in most situations but may require occasional human intervention.

Prototype Volvo self-driving cars are already being tested on public roads in designated areas of Gothenburg. XC90s also make up the majority of Uber's autonomous test fleet in California and Arizona. Volvo recently inked a deal with the ride-sharing company to supply 24,000 self-driving cars. The automaker is also partnering with Nvidia and Autoliv on the control software that constitutes the brains of self-driving cars.