Driverless Cars Hit the Road

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By Tiffany Orvet
Pilot programs in England and Sweden give semi-autonomous vehicles the green light.

Early next year, motorists in London and in Gothenburg, Sweden, will be invited to go hands-free when Volvo Cars unleashes 100 semi-autonomous vehicles onto each city’s commuter freeways in the first real-world test of its kind. Here’s how it works: When the car senses that conditions are right—smooth roads with middle barriers and no pedestrian access—it invites the driver to switch to autopilot. Volvo calls this moment the "handshake": when trust is transferred to the car. "The test allows us to take it step-by-step," says program head Marcus Rothoff. "We can open up the functionality into more and more difficult scenarios over the duration of the pilot." By 2018, fully autonomous cars will be introduced. The move toward driverless cars is part of Volvo’s pledge to eliminate fatalities and serious injuries in its new vehicles by 2020, while creating more pedestrian-friendly cities.

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