Why Sweden could be the first country to trial driverless cars

volvo driverless car

Swedish researchers have been exploring how driverless cars could impact on traffic congestion. Their studies have shown that alongside other initiatives such as car-pooling, driverless cars could have a substantial effect on not just congestion, but could reduce traffic pollution.

Driverless Cars can reduce traffic and pollution

According to the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, one car-pooled driverless car could reduce the amount of traffic on the roads by 14 cars. This is so long as passengers do not mind car-sharing and allow for a longer journey. Driverless cars would also free up parking spaces, as demand would drop by 80%.

“Driverless cars are the smart car, and just as revolutionary as the smartphone,” said Pierre-Jean Rigole from the KTH Center for Traffic Research. “They will revolutionize car ownership, lead to more flexible traffic, with far fewer crashes. And they will free up valuable space in cities that is currently occupied by parked cars.”

Researchers used Stockholm to test their theories. Around 136,000 cars are estimated to take part in the daily commute to work in Stockholm. Taxis account for half the overall total traffic volume, with about 272,000 daily trips.

Rigole says the study explored the prospect of 9,700 Shared Autonomous Vehicles (SAV) each with four seats being introduced to the Stockholm metropolitan region.

The research concluded that by combining passengers in driverless cars, optimising routes and speeds, the typical rush hours in the morning and evening could be virtually eliminated.

With this in mind, car manufacturers are investigating a number of ways to produce the perfect driverless car.

Volvo’s Driverless Car

Volvo is planning to place 100 driverless cars on the streets of Gothenburg by 2017, as part of their “Drive Me” experiment. The Swedish car manufacturer recently announced that they had developed a “complete, production-viable autonomous drive system”, complete with on-board sensors. The system also uses a cloud-based positioning system called Autopilot, to help keep the cars placed safely on the roads.

Autopilot works with sensors, camera units and radars mounted on the windshield and front and rear bumpers. There are also camera units and a laser scanner.

The system uses all these devices to collect information and upload it to a 3D map and a GPS, to give the car a continuous picture of its whereabouts.

The cloud-based system is designed to act as a safety measure, as it will connect the test cars to local traffic control centers, where they can receive real-time traffic information. This allows authorities to shut down the driverless systems in case of an accident or for safety issues.

Volvo believes that the Autopilot system will be able to manage every traffic situation from “smooth commuting to heavy traffic and emergency situations.”  It also expects that the system’s reactions in emergencies will be faster than a humans.

The Autopilot system does still need a human to drive it however, as, at present, it cannot work in bad weather, and if the car develops a technical problem, it will automatically switch over to manual control.

In their early tests, Volvo plan to use less trafficked roads, where there is less risk of oncoming cyclists and other traffic.  Volvo are developing these driverless cars for ethical and safety reasons, as traffic experts state autonomous cars can reduce fuel consumption, and massively decrease crashes.

The Swedish car manufacturer also say that using driverless cars can free up more “quality time”, as less time is spent on concentrating on driving.

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