Volvo’s driverless cars are heading for London to reduce pollution

Swedish car manufacturer Volvo Cars has revealed it will be trialling an ambitious autonomous driving (AD) system in the UK next year, representing the "largest and most extensive AD testing programme on Britain's streets".

The trial forms part of Volvo’s overarching commitment to ensure that “no person is killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo car by 2020”. The carmaker’s UK-based test – called ‘Drive me London’ – will commence in 2017 with a limited number of semi-autonomous driving cars and expand in 2018 to include as many as 100 AD cars.

As one of the first trials of its kind to have real families driving AD vehicles on public roads, Volvo hopes the experience of everyday journeys will provide vital data to develop AD vehicles that are suitable for real-world driving conditions.

Volvo Cars president and chief executive Håkan Samuelsson said: “Autonomous driving represents a leap forward in car safety. The sooner AD cars are on the roads, the sooner lives will start being saved. There are multiple benefits to AD cars. That is why governments globally need to put in place the legislation and infrastructure to allow AD cars onto the streets as soon as possible. The car industry cannot do it all by itself. We need governmental help.”

‘Leading the way’

If successful, the Drive me London scheme could help to significantly reduce the risk of car accidents and free up congestion. In terms of congestion, AD cars allow traffic to move more smoothly, reducing traffic jams and, by extension, cutting emissions and associated pollution.

The launch of this UK trial has been welcomed by UK Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Sajid Javid, who said: “Driverless cars will see our journeys become faster, cleaner and safer. The UK is leading the way in developing the technology needed to make this a reality thanks to our world-class research base, and these types of trials will become increasingly common.

“Such advances in technology prove the fourth industrial revolution is just around the corner, and our determination to be at the forefront is why we are attracting top names from across the globe for real-world testing.”

Video: Drive Me – Volvo Cars’ approach to autonomous driving

EV goals

Volvo’s driverless scheme reflects a business ethos which is demonstrably placing an increasng focus on social and environmental responsibility. Earlier this month, the Swedish carmaker pledged to sell a total of one million electric vehicles (EVs) by 2020, driven by the introduction of a new range of plug-in hybrids and its first all-electric model. In October 2015, Volvo announced a new strategy which aims for electrified vehicles to account for 10% of its total car sales by 2019.

This latest announcement from volvo comes in the same week that survey findings have revealed that 25,000 fewer cars are on London’s roads as a result of ‘car club’ members helping to fight congestion and improve air quality in the capital.

The Carplus survey revealed that members who join a car club reduce their annual mileage by an average of 750 miles, and reduce CO2 emissions by over 50,000 tonnes.

George Ogleby

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