Next year Volvo will do something no other company has tried: it will put 100 fully self-driving cars in the hands of customers. The tests, which will begin small and ramp up slowly, are to be held in Gothenberg, Sweden and in London.
It’s a lot harder than it may seem. True, the cars will be in self-driving mode only in the testing area and only when driving conditions permit. But they’ll be production cars, not experimental prototypes, and the drivers will be laymen, not engineers, with full ability to sit back and read a book, not continually putting a hand on the steering wheel to prove they’re capable of intervening at a moment’s notice. There’s no human being to serve as backup.