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Volvo to test self-driving tech Down Under

POSTED BY Nigel Andretti ON 23 July 2015

VOLVO has gone Down Under to develop its first autonomous vehicle.

The Chinese-owned (Geely Holding Group) car maker has teamed up with the South Australian government and the Australian Road Research Board (ARRB Group) to pioneer the country’s first such trials.

The Volvo cars will take to the roads to perform trials of overtaking, lane changing, braking and using ramps.

The Swedish car-maker will provide a specially prepared XC90 large SUV (below) that will conduct a series of controlled tests to asses the viability of self-driving vehicle technology on local roads.

volvo

The trial was initiated by the ARRB as part of its Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative, which has brought together technology partners Bosch and communications company Telstra as well as Volvo, with testing due to coincide with the start of the Driverless Vehicle Conference on November 5.

With a significant amount of driver assistance technology fitted as standard to the XC90, only relatively minor modifications were required to automate the SUV, including a reprogramme to allow its various systems to be operated hands-free.

While Volvo is on track to commission about 100 autonomous vehicles on Swedish roads by 2017, the South Australian trial is the first of its kind Down Under and is likely to pave the way for further evaluation.

Ultimately, the tests will lead to fully functional prototypes and after that, production models, Volvo Cars Australia managing director Kevin McCann said in a statement this week.

“As a leader in the development of autonomous drive technologies, Volvo’s aim is to make this technology realistically available for customers in production cars in the near future,” he said.

“Volvo believes autonomous drive technology will deliver significant consumer and societal benefits, including improved traffic safety, improved fuel economy, reduced congestion, and the opportunity for improved infrastructure planning.”

The demonstration will apply research already completed in other global trials and uses Volvo IntelliSafe Assist features including Adaptive Cruise Control with Pilot Assist, Lane Keeping Aid, Distance Alert, and Speed Limiter Function to drive the car without human instructions, Australian media reports.

While the lessons learned in other worldwide testing benefit the Australian trial, ARRB Group managing director Gerard Waldron explained that local testing was essential if production vehicles were to be viable here.

“ARRB will establish how driverless technology needs to be manufactured and introduced for uniquely Australian driving behaviour, our climate and road conditions, including what this means for Australia’s national road infrastructure, markings, surfaces and roadside signage,” he said.

“The trials in South Australia this November will be the first of many trials nationally, with discussions underway in a number of jurisdictions.”

In addition to the self-driving Volvo demonstration, the two-day conference will also host a number of discussions including a keynote speech from one of the company’s top international safety experts, Dr Trent Victor.

After the initial demonstration, Volvo and its partners will continue local testing and discussions, working towards the participation of other states, organisations and manufacturers.

The move sees Australia keep up with the UK, which has also announced similar trials in the coming months, and the US, where testing has been happening since 2012.