Swedish luxury auto brand Volvo Cars, owned by China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, is launching a project that will include what it calls the world's largest test of autonomous vehicles.
At the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Monday, Volvo Cars President and CEO Hakan Samuelsson presented the keys to a Volvo XC90 with autonomous capabilities to the Hain family from Gothenburg, Sweden, as part of its "Drive Me" project.
Hakan Samuelsson, President and CEO of Volvo, speaks before unveiling the Volvo XC90 Drive Me autonomous test SUV during the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, US on January 9, 2017. /CFP Photo
The Hain family's new vehicle is one of 100 autonomous cars that will operate on roads around Gothenburg, the home of Volvo. Drive Me is a collaborative research program that the company believes is the most ambitious and extensive real-life autonomous driving project in existence.
Samuelsson said the key to getting the public to accept autonomous or self-driving cars is safety. "They must feel safe and safety is part of our DNA at Volvo," he added.
A Volvo XC90 Drive Me autonomous test SUV at the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, US /CFP Photo
Volvo Cars saw a successful 2016, after struggling just seven years ago. Bought from Ford in 2010 after splitting off from parent company AB Volvo, Volvo Cars has since expanded under its new owners, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, whose ambitions include opening Volvo Cars' first factory in the US.
"The plant is on schedule and we plan for the first cars to come out in the third quarter of 2018," Lex Kerssemakers, President and CEO of Volvo Cars North America said in an interview.
The plant, near Charleston, South Carolina, will produce the S60 sedan. "The plant will produce cars for all over the world. So it's not only for the US but the cars will also be exported to China and Europe," Kerssemakers said.
Attendees photograph the Volvo XC90 Drive Me autonomous test SUV during the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, US on January 9, 2017. /CFP Photo
Volvo car sales were solidly higher in 2016. The company sold about 534,000 vehicles globally, up 6.2 percent from 2015, Samuelsson said. In China, sales increased 11.5 percent to about 91,000, while US sales advanced 18 percent to nearly 83,000.
(With input from China Daily)