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One step closer to autonomous driving

Posted by: Erik Bjornstad

What would it be like if you could sit back on your morning commute and watch TV or even recline your seat and eat breakfast without worrying about traffic? Volvo’s new Concept 26 brings that scenario one step closer to reality.

autonomous-driving.jpgAuto blogs lit up in late October/early November in anticipation of the LA Auto Show  where Volvo was expected to unveil its next step in the move toward autonomous driving. The name of Concept 26 was selected by Volvo because the average commute for drivers is about 26 minutes. Their marketing spin is that this is time drivers can reclaim in their day if they don’t have to worry about driving. They ask “what would you do with another 26 minutes?

Of course, the whole idea of “autonomous driving” – where the car does most of the driving while the driver doesn’t have control – begs lots of questions about safety. Those genuine concerns could fill another blog post or two. In the meantime, the new platform from Volvo is worth previewing a little more in-depth.

Getting More Time Back In Your Day

Volvo’s conceptualization of the driver-less vehicle has three modes to select.  The Drive mode makes it just like a regular car – the human being has full control.  A ‘Create’ mode gives the driver now-passenger a touchscreen computer to use to catch up on work and be more productive. Wild, right? And then there’s the ‘Relax’ mode which gives access to an infotainment system to watch movies and play games. All while the vehicle navigates all manner of possible traffic while transporting its passengers to their final destination.

Switching away from the full-control Drive mode would be done by prompting the driver to put both hands on two levers by the steering wheel. They hold them there for a given length of time until the car confirms the change in mode.

It’s anticipated that there will be laws about what geographic areas and types of roads  are allowed for autonomous driving. The car would be programmed to recognize these areas and only autonomous driving in places where it’s allowed.

What is Driverless Driving like?

So what might it be like to be just a passenger? In Volvo’s conceptualization, once the driver switches away from control, they can recline the seat back while a tablet, tray table and 25-inch monitor swing into view.  The seats themselves might even resemble squishy recliners.

Volvo is going whole-hog into driverless driving.  They already have integrated lesser types of similar technology, like collision avoidance control, into some existing vehicles.  And there’s the pilot project of putting 100 autonomous cars owned by regular drivers on the street of Gothenberg, Sweden, within a couple of years.  Volvo keeps track of all performance and safety data on the vehicles and shares the information with the Swedish government, so they know what tweaks need to be made on the cars AND the government’s civil engineers can gain insights on any improvements to infrastructure that are needed. The speed limit needs to be adjusted on this stretch of highway? Check.

Make no mistake, autonomous vehicles are on the way. It’s just a matter of when. Our guess is that it will be less of a novelty within the next, say, 5-10 years.

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Image Credit: VolvoCars.com

This post was published on December 22, 2015 and was updated on December 5, 2019.

Topics: Car Care