The Swedish automaker has your back in a way Tesla doesn't.
One of the biggest questions surrounding self-driving cars is where responsibility lies in the event of an accident. For some companies that's a difficult question to answer, but not for Volvo. The Swedish automaker confirmed that it will take full legal responsibility for its autonomous cars once they hit the road. Anne-Catherine Thore Olsson, senior director for Volvo's cluster 90 line of cars, told Motoring that, "There can be no grey zone whatsoever [regarding] who is responsible."
As such Volvo will not roll out autonomous cars until it is sure that they are safe 100% of the time. "We would not accept anything less than a system that is good enough for us to take full responsibility," Thore Olsson said. This is in stark contrast to Tesla, which has readily admitted that its self-driving Autopilot feature is still in beta testing. Volvo wants to have its autonomous tech ready to go by 2020, and to accomplish its ambitious goal it is currently holding trials in its hometown of Gothenburg, Sweden. Trials are also being held in London and certain cities in China, although these will be secondary studies used to verify findings from Sweden. In Sweden 100 customers will be given an XC90 equipped with self-driving tech.
Initially the trial participants will need to supervise the car, but over time the goal is to refine the technology to the point where the driver can play on their laptop (or do some other activity) while the car drives itself. For Volvo it sees the slow roll out of self-driving tech as a plus that consumers will appreciate, with Thore Olsson telling Motoring: "That should be an advantage for the customer… That they know the car manufacturer takes the full responsibility, instead of offering something [technology] that they don't take [legal responsibility]." Despite the trials and Volvo's timeline the automaker doesn't have a hard deadline set for when its self-driving tech will be available to consumers. There's still one big factor outside the automaker's control.
Governments around the world are still working on legislation regarding self-driving cars. Even if the tech is ready a country's lawmakers may not be. Even if rules and regulations are ready come 2020 the final decision rests with Volvo, which could push its self-driving tech back further. The company is planning on taking full legal responsibility for its robot cars after all, which means it damn well wants to be sure they work every single time.