One hundred people will get behind the wheel of self-driving Volvo cars in 2017 for the first public test of the Swedish automaker's Drive Me system.
The test will place those individuals in the driver's seats of the cars, which would then automatically move through selected streets in Volvo's hometown of Gothenburg. The streets would be cleared of oncoming traffic, bicyclists and pedestrians.
The Drive Me system, now in its second year, utilizes sensors, cloud-based positioning systems and intelligent braking and steering technology to enable cars that are able to take over every aspect of driving.
Volvo officials added that the cars include fault-tolerant systems, which establish a vehicle that is "safe, robust and affordable for ordinary customers."
During circumstances in which the autopilot option is not available – including inclement weather, technical problems or reaching a destination – the system would prompt the driver to take over control of the vehicle. If the driver does not respond in time for any reason, the car would bring itself to a stop.
The system would also include independent backup systems for many technical functions, noting that a driver would likely be unprepared to react, for example, if initial braking by the automatic system were to falter.
"We are entering uncharted territory in the field of autonomous driving," Volvo Senior Vice President of Research and Development Peter Mertens said in announcing the test.
Although the Gothenburg test puts Volvo ahead of self-driving competitors like Audi and Mercedes-Benz, observers warned of a large gulf between a single demonstration and regulations and infrastructure capable of handling self-driving cars for sale to the public. Experts, however, suggest the technology will be common on roads within 15 years.