The self-driving car race is on, and Volvo plans to test its autonomous vehicles in the UK next year, deploying a fleet of semi-automatic XC90 cars in London.

Volvo says its upcoming trial in London will be "UK's largest and most ambitious driving trial" and will kick off early next year. After that, the carmaker's Drive Me scheme will extend to 100 vehicles in 2018.

The autonomous driving (AD) technology aims to help drivers save time, as well as free up congested roads and reduce traffic accidents.

"Autonomous driving represents a leap forward in car safety," says Håkan Samuelsson, Volvo president and CEO. "The sooner AD cars are on the roads, the sooner lives will start being saved."

The upcoming trial will be part of Volvo's deathproof cars commitment, ensuring that, by 2020, no one will be killed or seriously injured when driving a new Volvo car.

Volvo further reveals that its 2017 UK trial will be called "Drive Me London," and will employ a different strategy compared to other autonomous driving programs. To stand out from the crowd, "Drive Me London" will involve real families driving self-driving cars on public roads.

Sourcing data from everyday users will help Volvo develop autonomous driving vehicles that are prepared for real-world driving conditions, as opposed to the "unrealistic" scenarios test tracks present.

With up to a whopping 90 percent of all road accidents attributed to driver error or distraction, Volvo says its autonomous driving cars will revolutionize the UK's traffic in four main areas:

  •  Safety
  •  Congestion
  •  Pollution
  •  Time saving

Volvo will also test self-driving cars in China, as well as Gothenburg, Sweden.

The autonomous driving cars will be able to roam the streets in "unsupervised" mode on specific freeways that have been pre-approved and pre-mapped, thus allowing drivers to sit back and relax while Volvo Drive Me cars do the work.

"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," says Sajid Javid, UK Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Volvo's president and CEO, meanwhile, further urges governments across the world to embrace autonomous driving technology and help the progress by providing the infrastructure and the legislation necessary for self-driving cars to hit the road as soon as possible.

For the UK trial, Volvo has teamed up with Thatcham Research, which is the UK equivalent of the IIHS in the United States. The insurance industry is understandably eager to find out how things will unfold, how autonomous driving will impact the industry and how it will affect claims for injuries or car damage. Volvo, for its part, promised to take full responsibility and liability for any actions the vehicle takes while in AD mode.

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