Volvo aims to launch an experiment involving self-driving cars in China in which up to 100 such cars could be deployed, the Swedish carmaker said on 7 April. The planned experiment will see local drivers test the cars on public roads in everyday conditions, Volvo said. It will be conducted in limited driving situations such as on express roads and highways, company executives said.
"This is probably the country where you will have the first really commercial markets for this, I mean here is where you have hundreds of thousands of people sitting a lot of time, wasting a lot of time, so these are really our potential customers," president and chief executive of Volvo, Hakan Samuelsson said.
Volvo, wholly owned by China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co, is currently scouting for a city that could provide the necessary permissions, regulations and infrastructure to allow the experiment to go ahead, the company said. The carmaker did not say by when it hopes to conduct the tests. The move is part of the Swedish company's efforts to take advantage of the pledges central government policymakers in China, the world's biggest car market, have made to embrace futuristic technologies such as self-driving cars.
By calling on cities in China to sign up to participate in the programme, Volvo wants to send a message to the Chinese government to "step up to the plate" to make good its often "strident" pledges of commitment to autonomous driving technology made in recent months, a Volvo executive familiar with the planned experiment said.
The China experiment will be patterned after Volvo's own similarly-set-up testing programme in the Swedish city of Gothenburg that aims to start deploying self-drive test cars next year. Samuelsson said ultimately whether drivers would accept the technology would depend on the safety record of the companies behind them.
Besides Volvo, Tesla, Mercedes, Audi and Google are among those developing self-driving vehicles.