How Volvo is Quietly Surpassing Tesla in Autonomous Tech

Thinking Highways
By Thinking Highways March 18, 2016 15:18

How Volvo is Quietly Surpassing Tesla in Autonomous Tech


Volvo may take lead in autonomous driving technology as it believes to come up with “death-proof” feature by 2020

Driverless car has always been a fascination for the auto industry. It may have been an impossibility decades ago, but today it is just a few years away. At least that is what leading automakers say.

Presently, Tesla Motors Inc. is at the forefront in the autonomous driving technology as its auto steering feature is installed wirelessly over the entire fleet of Tesla vehicles around the globe. Its feature can change lanes, provide a hands-free ride for ideal road conditions, while another feature like “Summon” can also park the car remotely. Despite such features, the company has not claimed that Tesla will be liable for any accident while autopilot is operating.

However, one company has claimed the full responsibility for any accident that happens while its autonomous mode is in operation. Chief Executive of Swedish car maker Volvo, Hakan Samuelsson has claimed that the company will be accepting full liability whenever its cars are on autonomous mode. Google and Mercedes are the other companies that have claimed full liability, once their autonomous driving cars are commercialized.

 Mr. Samuelsson also presented his case of adoption of autonomous driving technology at Swedish parliament at Stockholm on March 10. The title of the seminar was “A Future with Self Driving Cars – Threat or Opportunity?“ where the CEO urged regulators and car makers around the globe to quicken their efforts towards driverless cars. “The best way to do this is to get everyone involved working together at the earliest opportunity,” says Volvo’s press release.

Bidness Etc contacted director of Volvo’s autonomous driving project, Marcus Rothoff to find out what makes the Volvo so confident. Mr. Rothoff said the company has driver support systems to ensure safety, once the vehicle is on autonomous mode.

To further show how confident the automaker is on its driverless feature, Mr. Rothoff said that the driver can even read magazine while the vehicle drives itself. Such a bold stance is not even taken by Tesla Motors, which urges its customers to still play an active role when Tesla cars are on auto-steering mode. Instead, Tesla Motors had to downgrade its Autopilot feature as people were reported to do “crazy things” – as said by Elon Musk – such as shaving and reading newspaper. The feature remained banned in Hong Kong for five months as regulators did not authorize it for public use.

When asked what makes Volvo’s autonomous driving system different form that of Tesla’s, Mr. Rothoff pointed out its amazing sensors, which make car handle better than existing autonomous technology. Volvo’s Pilot Assist functionality is currently present in XC90, which makes the vehicle take on wheels at speed below 30 miles per hour (mph) or 58 km/h. However, according to Auto week, Volvo is planning to upgrade this functionality to a speed of 80 mph or 128km/h in its new 2017 Volvo S90, which will hit US roads later this year.

In January, the president and CEO of Volvo cars USA, Lex Kerssemakers said: “Making semi-autonomous features standard in the S90 symbolizes Volvo’s commitment to autonomous driving and our Vision 2020. The S90 will be the first vehicle to offer this semi-autonomous technology as standard.”

In contrast, Tesla Motors curbed its Autopilot feature to a speed limit of only 5 mph (8km/h). Moreover, Volvo not only offers drivers “hands-off” driving experience, unlike Tesla, but also claims to take full liability of the vehicle under autonomous mode, eventually reach its Vision 2020, which is that its cars will be so safe that no one will be killed or seriously injured in Volvo cars.

Any Restrictions Faced By Government

Under Volvo’s Drive Me program, the automaker is planning to test 100 XC90 cars on public road at Gothenburg in 2017, which will display people’s trust with driverless cars in their daily life. Such a program is helped by Swedish government, as Volvo and the government both consider driverless cars a solution to achieve zero traffic fatalities.

Volvo follows Nordic Model, which means that private sector, public sector and academia all work together to decide the fate of the future technology. Volvo is working with Swedish car safety parts maker Autoliv, Swedish engineering and technology university Chalmer and senior politicians to support the early launch of autonomous cars on public roads. This shows that the company is working with authorities and several sectors of societies to make the adoption of driverless cars possible.

When asked if Autoliv is the main supplier for Autonomous driving parts, Mr. Rothoff refrained to answer directly and said that Autoliv is a major supplier for Volvo. To a question when we will be able to see a fully autonomous car from Volvo, his answer was somewhere around 2020.

Is Volvo Looking for Autonomous Driving Car Mobility?

Such car mobility projects have already started in Detroit, where General Motors Company and Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) are fighting to become major players. GM recently launched its car sharing program Maven, and in partnership with ride hailing firm Lyft. The automaker will rent its vehicles for the Lyft drivers. This makes GM lead in autonomous car sharing sector. As many analysts consider car mobility an imminent future of auto industry; we expect Volvo can also start its own driverless car sharing service.

Thinking Highways
By Thinking Highways March 18, 2016 15:18