Volvo to lease 100 self-driving cars to Chinese drivers for everyday testing
Thu 7 Apr 2016
Swedish automaker Volvo is planning on bringing a fleet of 100 self-driving vehicles to China from next year, in a project which will see local drivers test autonomous cars on public roads in everyday driving conditions.
This will not be the first time that Volvo has allowed the general public behind the wheel of its self-driving cars, with a similar consumer-lease venture planned in Gothenburg, Sweden next year. However, dangerous driving and congestion in Chinese cities will likely prove a very different challenge for the fleet.
The company, which is owned by Chinese carmaker Geely, has said that it is currently finalising a partnership with the Chinese government and entering discussions with a number of local Chinese authorities to establish ‘the necessary permissions, regulations and infrastructure to allow the experiment to go ahead.’
Volvo will face strong autonomous competition in the country, with existing efforts from domestic tech giant Baidu. The web services company successfully completed a driverless car test route on a variety of terrain in Beijing last December.
The world’s first self-driving bus is also being developed by Chinese manufacturer Yutong. Unveiled in August last year, the vehicle managed a successful 20-mile journey through the congested city of Zhengzhou.
Startup, Uisee Technology, is a further Chinese competitor with big ambitions for driverless systems. The team includes co-founder Gansha Wu, previously director of Intel Labs China, a mechanical expert, a former Google machine learning specialist, and a group of leading semiconductor experts.
Volvo’s China sales grew by around 10% year-on-year over the first quarter this year, a figure which, according to CEO Hakan Samuelsson, it hopes to match for the full 2016 year.
While China’s auto market is set to grow at a considerable rate, Volvo is looking to outpace this growth by pushing hi-tech innovations for a safer and cleaner future.