By 2017, Volvo says it will initiate a trial of one hundred self-driving cars in its home city of Gothenburg, Sweden. They say that they already have a production viable concept for their autonomous vehicle that they could begin producing immediately. This self-driving car would have twenty eight cameras, lasers, sensors, and radar units to make up its self-driving system. These cars will be able to brake, accelerate, read road signs, read the flow of traffic, and come to a stop if the driver becomes incapacitated for some reason. The twenty eight part self-driving system is aided by a high definition 3D map and GPS to help the car position itself.
The system breaks down into components which will be listed as follows. There is a 76 GHz wave radar unit and a camera at the top of the windshield to read road signs, detect the curvature of the road and see positions of other cars on the road. There are surround radars located at each of the four corners of the vehicle, behind the front and back bumpers that look to the side to form a 360 degree view of the surrounds of the vehicle. There are also four cameras one on each side mirror, one in the grille, and one in the rear bumper to help complete the panoramic view. There is a multiple beam laser scanner located in the front bumper that scans up to 492 feet in front of the vehicle for obstructions such as cars, pedestrians, etcetera and this camera can rotate up to 140 degrees and differentiate between various objects. There is a trifocal camera system in place to give the Autopilot system (as it is termed) a sense of depth perception. There are two long range radars behind the rear bumper which monitor goings on behind the vehicle. Finally, there are twelve ultrasonic sensors scattered around the vehicle which can detect objects and pedestrians at slower speeds.
Volvo’s autonomous car concept sounds very interesting to me, especially in light of the fact that it is already production viable and they hope to complete a one hundred vehicle road test within the next two years. I am not sure how much trust I give to self-driving cars however. The whole idea of it feels a bit off-putting to me personally. Driving to me is not a trial and is something I actually enjoy (aside from when I am stuck in traffic). While this is a huge step forward for automotives as a whole, particularly since it is Volvo which is a company known for safety, I am still not entirely on board with the self-driving car craze.