volvo self-driving car
Volvo hopes to have 100 autonomous vehicles driving the streets of Gothenburg by 2017. Volvo

Volvo has begun testing its self-driving cars on public roads in what the Swedish car manufacturer hopes will be the world's first large-scale fleet of autonomous vehicles.

The driverless cars were tested by Volvo on roads around Gothenburg in Sweden as part of the company's Drive Me project, which was announced last December.

"The test cars are now able to handle lane following, speed adaption and merging traffic all by themselves," said Erik Coelingh, a technical specialist at Volvo.

volvo driverless car

"This is an important step towards our aim that the final 'Drive Me' cars will be able to drive the whole test route in highly autonomous mode."

The technology, referred to by Volvo as Autopilot, allows car users to hand over all driving functions to the onboard computer.

Similar technology is currently being developed by other car manufacturers, including Nissan, Ford and Tesla.

Other companies have also moved into the space. Google has already racked up thousands of test miles on the streets around its California headquarters, while Nokia announcing in a statement yesterday that it had launched a $100m (£59m) fund to invest in smart cars.

Volvo's own plans involve the introduction of 100 autonomous cars on a 50km route in Gothenburg by 2017, with the hope that the introduction of such vehicles will help improve road safety and reduce congestion.

"That Volvo Cars' hometown of Gothenburg becomes the world's first arena for self-driving cars in everyday driving conditions demonstrates both our technological leadership and Sweden's dedication to pioneering the integration of self-driving vehicles," stated Coelingh.

"This public pilot will provide us with a valuable insight into the societal benefits of making autonomous vehicles a natural part of the traffic environment."