The first Gothenburg-area families to become part of the Drive Me program have received Volvo XC90s with the same semiautonomous technology. One big difference is that the cars the families received earlier this month are equipped with cameras and other monitoring devices used to observe how they interact with the vehicle when the systems are in use.
Rothoff said that the real-life data Volvo gets from these two families, as well as the three families that will be added to the program early next year, will be crucial to the fully autonomous vehicle that Volvo will debut in four years.
“It’s so easy for engineers like us to assume we know what customers want. If we claim to be a human-centric brand we need to develop cars that are really focusing on the customers,” Rothoff said.
Alex Hain, 45, whose family was the first chosen for the Drive Me project, is looking forward to being a part of Volvo’s journey to offering fully autonomous cars.
“Our input will help them see things that are not obvious,” he said during a discussion with reporters at his home outside of Gothenburg.
His wife, Paula, 45, said she had found that the XC90’s Pilot Assist, which combines adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping functionality for semiautonomous driving, outperformed expectations on the first day she had it. During a ride to the airport on Dec. 1 with a Volvo technician in the car she was told Pilot Assist would have trouble with a curve, but the XC90 handled the challenge without any problem because the curve was not too sharp. She was immediately impressed.
The Hains' oldest daughter, Filippa, 17, will also be able to test the XC90 later this year once she has her license. She said she is looking forward to taking friends for rides in the car. She’s also expecting that by the time she is a parent having an autonomous car will allow her to spend more time with her children during a journey because the vehicle will take over the driving.
The Hains and the other families involved in the project will gradually be given access to more advanced assisted-driving features. They will initially try the new technology in controlled environments such as a test track under supervision from Volvo safety experts.