Safety first? Volvo CEO says self-driving fully autonomous cars won’t be happening for a long time – Cars News
Volvo’s global chief has said that full autonomous driving would not happen for a long time to come, despite him confirming that his company has the technology to roll it out now.
Like most major carmakers, Volvo models feature what is known as ‘Level 2’ autonomous driving (AD) technology, which includes advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) that can take over steering, acceleration, and braking in certain scenarios.
Those features include adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping aid, and traffic jam assist that, combined, keep the vehicle driving in a given lane without requiring much input from the driver.
Each AD level adds more and more autonomy, but Level 5 is full driving automation where the vehicle can drive itself everywhere in all situations.
In the mid-2010s, a number of manufacturers claimed they were working on fully autonomous vehicles, with brands like Audi and Nissan making bold predictions about having such a car on the market by around 2020.
As we now know, that did not come to pass.
And, according to Volvo Cars CEO and president Jim Rowan, these internationally recognized levels of autonomy are “nonsense”.
“So first of all, this big myth that there are five different levels of autonomy is nonsense, in my opinion,” he told Australian journalists recently. “You’ve got two levels of autonomy. One is your hands on the steering wheel. One is your hands off the steering wheel.
“Hands on the steering wheel is ADAS. There’s automatic lane change assist, automatic braking and all that stuff. But you still need to have your hands on the steering wheel. And then hands off.”
Mr Rowan added that from a Volvo perspective, the technology for fully autonomous driving “is there already”, however, only “in certain conditions”, and added that it will be regulation, or lack of, that holds up rollout of the tech.
“Can we drive a fully autonomous car? Yes. Does regulation allow that? No. So I think regulation will be the barrier towards full adoption of full AD more than technology,” he said.
“You’re gonna have this computational power, you’re gonna have the software that can do it. And maybe it starts off on a highway … in probably California, designated lanes on the highway, designated routes from the airport to downtown , you’re gonna find probably that will be the first place that full AD is allowed to go. Almost like a taxi service, you know, you jump in, there’s no driver and then off you go. Or you can take your hands off yourself and use your own AD system.”
Mr. Rowan cautioned that venturing beyond the environment of a freeway lane, autonomous driving in inner city and urban areas won’t be happening anytime soon, and that realization is impacting the value of some automotive manufacturers.
“But driving inside the city when there’s schools and roadworks, and there’s a lot of change every day, I think that’s a long, long way off. And I think people have started to realize that and that’s why this is no longer driving share value , because the markets have realized that as well and the investors have realized that so you don’t get a multiple on your stock any longer if you say ‘I’ve got full AD’. You might have, but legislation is not going to allow it so we’re not going to give you a premium on your stock because you’ve got that,” he said.
Volvo has shown off its vision for autonomous or self-driving vehicles with the 360c concept from 2018. It is essentially a pod that can drive itself and allows occupants to enjoy the cabin, sleep or even work while in transit.