Volvo to begin trials of driverless cars in London early next year


Volvo has announced plans to conduct the "most ambitious" trial of driverless car technology on UK roads.

The Swedish manufacturer said it will be the first time that members of the British public will be recruited to get behind the wheel of autonomous driving (AD) cars on the public highway.

A limited number of semi-AD cars will take to the streets of London early next year, before the scheme is extended in 2018 to up to 100 vehicles.

Adapted versions of Volvo's XC90 sport utility vehicle will be used in the trials.

They will be fitted with additional computer systems, cameras and sensors to enable them to carry out steering, lane changes, acceleration and braking without driver control, Volvo said.

Hakan Samuelsson, president of the Gothenburg-based company, commented: "Autonomous driving represents a leap forward in car safety.

"The sooner AD cars are on the roads, the sooner lives will start being saved."

Data from the scheme will be analysed by Volvo to help it develop AD cars.

The firm has not confirmed which parts of the capital will be used for the trial.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid said: "Driverless cars will see our journeys become faster, cleaner and safer.

"The UK is leading the way in developing the technology needed to make this a reality thanks to our world-class research base and these types of trials will become increasingly common."

Chancellor George Osborne announced plans in March's Budget for trials which will allow driverless cars on motorways next year.

Proposals sweeping away regulations that prevent autonomous driving are expected to be brought forward this summer that would allow driverless cars to take to the roads by 2020.

Engineers suggest that driverless cars, which can alert drivers to accidents and traffic jams, could eventually prevent 95% of crashes, according to the Treasury.

Tests of "truck platooning" will be carried out on motorways, which would see lorries travel in a tightly packed convoy that improves fuel economy by reducing aerodynamic drag.