Volvo Considers International Expansion for Drive Me Program

  • Emma Sandler
  • March 16, 2017
  • 0

Volvo Cars is now using TomTom’s high-definition mapping software to power Volvo’s autonomous vehicle Drive Me program — which begins in Gothenburg, Sweden, and may expand internationally after 2017, Mobility Buzz has learned.

Volvo may be targeting London and parts of China for the program’s expansion, a Volvo spokesperson told Mobility Buzz, with China more likely being the first expansion. However, there were some “discussions” taking place for the program in London, but it was contingent upon a variety of factors — such as financing the operation, he said.

With the autonomous Drive Me program, 100 Volvo drivers will be recruited to use TomTom technology during their daily commute — as long as their commute falls within the designated area of mapping.

The Drive Me program will begin in Sweden sometime this year, although Volvo declined to confirm when it will begin to accept applications for drivers to participate.

Volvo is choosing to approach deadline and timetables for the program differently. Volvo is allowing everyday citizens to participate in Drive Me, which is why the company is taking a “slow and incremental approach,” the spokesperson said. This falls in line with the company’s commitment to safety, he added.

TomTom and Volvo have worked together for years on connected car and autonomous car partnerships, Greg Morrison, global communications manager for TomTom Automotive, told Mobility Buzz.

In fact, beginning in 2019, all Volvo scalable product architecture (SPA) and compact modular architecture (CMA) platforms will be equipped with TomTom navigation technology.

A map showing the area in Gothenburg, Sweden where the Drive Me will take place. The white section shows the public roads that local drivers will be able to use autonomous driving technology.

Drive Me research route, Gothenburg, Sweden illustration (Photo: Volvo)

“The Volvo Drive Me program is exciting because of its user-centric focus,” Antoine Saucier, managing director for TomTom Automotive, said in a statement. “We’re really interested in what we’ll learn from the drivers as they interact with the technology, and how the TomTom HD Map helps towards their driving experience.”

Volvo is “desperately interested” in the human behavior side of autonomous cars, Morrison told Mobility Buzz. For example, Drive Me will require drivers to operate their personal vehicle with their hands on the wheel approximately 40% of the time. The TomTom team is looking forward to seeing how drivers initially react and then adapt to the autonomous capabilities for the other 60% of the time, Morrison said.

Volvo Cars will also use the NVIDIA DRIVE™ PX 2 deep learning-based computing engine for the Drive Me program. TomTom and Nvidia will work in conjunction to map roads in high-definition and transmit that information in real-time to the car.

Separately, Volvo partnered with supplier Autoliv to create a joint venture that will develop a software platform for self-driving cars, which the company hopes to sell to other automakers.

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