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With driverless cars, Volvo seeks injury-free cars by 2020

Posting in Government

It's a Titanic-like claim (you know, the "unsinkable ship"), but one that, if it comes true, could have major safety implications for drivers.

Volvo believes that with the driverless car technology it's developing, we could see virtually zero car deaths, at least in cars with the technology, The Wall Street Journal reports:

The 85-year-old company believes it can produce an accident free vehicle in just seven years. "Our vision is that no one is killed or injured in a new Volvo by 2020," said Anders Eugensson, Volvo's head of government affairs. [...]

The company says it is preparing to launch in 2014 its first batch of autonomous vehicles capable of driving up to 31 miles per hour. The limited speed reflects the technology's expected initial use in heavy traffic. Volvo says it is working on higher-speed autonomous driving, but isn't yet disclosing when it would be available. Its prototypes have run thousands of miles of test drives on public roads in Spain and on the company's test track in western Sweden.

"We are convinced this is the future and we want to get there first," Marcus Rothoff, head of developing Volvo's driver assistance technology, said during a recent autonomous-driving event at a track in Hallered.

The initial autonomous car technology that the company will release in 2014 will essentially be traffic jam assistance. Instead of stomping on the brake in frustration as you inch along the highway, you'll be able to let the car take over while you do something else. And earlier this year, the company completed it's first test of a "road train," in Spain.

As for the possibility of Volvo's cars being injury-free by 2020, there is some precedent from Google's driverless car. According to Google, their driverless car has been driven 300,000 miles under computer control without being involved in an accident. (It's was in an accident once when under human control.) That cars will cease to pose danger, though, is quite presumptuous, especially with other cars on the road that will lack the technology.

The Swedish car maker has been in a slide recently with only 436,000 vehicles sold last year and this year expected to be in the red, according to the WSJ. So it's not surprising that the company has high hopes for the technology. It could be these innovations that turn the company around.

Volvo Stakes Its Claim to Driverless Vehicles [Wall Street Journal]

Image: Volvo

— By on December 3, 2012, 5:11 AM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure