Volvo Cars Plans a Self-Driving Auto by 2021

  • Hands-free highway driving to follow tests starting in 2017
  • Carmaker searching for partners in software, cloud services

Volvo, which markets its cars based on a reputation for safety, has pushed driver-assistance systems as a way to reduce crashes.

Source: Getty Images

Volvo Car Group plans to sell a model able to pilot itself down the highway by 2021, joining BMW AG in a promise of self-driving technology within five years.

Volvo will start testing vehicles with advanced self-driving features next year in Sweden’s Gothenburg, London and China, eventually putting about 100 test cars on the road in each country with ordinary customers as drivers. The project is a stepping-stone toward systems able to take over without human intervention.

Unlike BMW, which announced its 2021 target together with Intel Corp. and Mobileye NV, Volvo is still looking for collaborators. The Swedish carmaker needs expertise in software and cloud services and is looking into “various partnerships right now,” Chief Executive Officer Hakan Samuelsson said.

“It’s our ambition to have a car that can drive fully autonomously on the highway by 2021,” Samuelsson said in an interview. “This technology is something as a carmaker you cannot develop by yourself.”

Putting hands-free driving on highways within five years will also require laws and regulations to keep up with technological advances, Samuelsson said.

Volvo, which markets its cars based on a reputation for safety, has pushed driver-assistance systems as a way to reduce crashes. Technology that allows people to remove their hands from the wheel for a short time has come under increased scrutiny after the disclosure last month of the first fatal crash involving Tesla Motors Inc.’s Autopilot.

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