Volvo CEO pours cold water on autonomous dreams

Fully autonomous cars are still a “long way off,” despite the growing maturity of the technology, according to Volvo CEO Jim Rowan.

He also said that the current system of classifying self-driving cars into five levels is “nonsense,” and that unsubstantiated claims around driverless vehicle development no longer inflate share value as they did a few years ago.

His comments come in the same week that scientists at CERN announced the results of a three year project which they believe will enhance the safety of the autonomous vehicles of the future.

The CERN team combined with software company Zenseact on a joint research project that may allow autonomous-driving cars to make faster decisions, helping to avoid accidents.

The project focused on machine-learning models to enable self-driving cars to make better decisions faster and thus avoid collisions.

In an interview with Car Expert, the former head of Dyson explained that there are only two levels of autonomy: with hands on the steering wheel (Advanced Driver Assist Systems or ADAS) and hands off the steering wheel (Autonomous Driving or AD). 

He also said that the technology for full autonomy is already there, but the issue lies with regulations, which currently do not allow for full autonomy. Rowan added that fully-autonomous driving technologies will initially be permitted along highways and act as taxi services.

“You’re going to find, probably, that will be the first place that full AD is allowed to go. Almost like a taxi service. You know, you jump in, there’s no driver, or you can take your hands off yourself and use your own AD system,” he said.

“But driving inside a city where there are schools, and roadworks, where there’s a lot of change every day? I think that’s a long, long way off,” he said.