OH, THE UNTAINTED optimism of 2014. In the spring of that year, the good Swedes at Volvo introduced Drive Me, a program to get regular Josefs, Frejas, Joeys, and Fayes into autonomous vehicles. By 2017, Volvo executives promised, the company would distribute 100 self-driving SUVs to families in Gothenburg, Sweden. The cars would be able to ferry their passengers through at least 30 miles of local roads, in everyday driving conditions—all on their own. “The technology, which will be called Autopilot, enables the driver to hand over the driving to the vehicle, which takes care of all driving functions,” said Erik Coelingh, a technical lead at Volvo.
Now, in the waning weeks of 2017, Volvo has pushed back its plans. By four years. Automotive News reports the company now plans to put 100 people in self-driving cars by 2021, and “self-driving” might be a stretch. The guinea pigs will start off testing the sort of semi-autonomous features available to anyone willing to pony up for a new Volvo (or Tesla, Cadillac, Nissan, or Mercedes).
“On the journey, some of the questions that we thought were really difficult to answer have been answered much faster than we expected,” Marcus Rothoff, the carmaker’s autonomous driving program director, told the publication. “And in some areas, we are finding that there were more issues to dig into and solve than we expected.” Namely, price. Rothoff said the company was loath to nail down the cost of its sensor set before it knew how it would work, so Volvo couldn’t quite determine what people would pay for the privilege in riding in or owning one. CEO Hakan Samuelsson has said self-driving functionality could add about $10,000 to the sticker price.
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