Volvo’s picturesque hometown on Sweden’s west coast will soon be a testbed for the company’s most advanced technology — and a way to curb vehicle emissions.
The automaker will use the streets of Gothenburg to help develop cities that are friendlier to cars that can drive themselves, as well as pedestrians and cyclists. One of the biggest hurdles to the eventuality of cars that can drive themselves remains infrastructure. Even in relatively small pockets, cities take vastly different approaches to urban design that can make it more challenging for artificial intelligence systems to adapt to roads. For instance, a road sign in one country may have a totally unique appearance and be positioned in a different location in one city just over a river from another, while curb designs can vary wildly even within a single city.
Just what Volvo plans to do in its test area of Gothenburg hasn’t been announced, but merely tearing down the barrier between infrastructure and vehicles and partnering with a city is an unprecedented step forward in terms of the potential for coordination.
One side benefit is that Volvo will use plug-in hybrid cars that can operate on electricity alone in the special zone it has set up, which means that there will be no tailpipe emissions to clog up the air. To that end, Volvo said it will use trackers in the cars to have them automatically switch to electric mode when they enter the test area.
Volvo says its so-called Green City Zone initiative will launch this spring in a small section of Gothenburg, but the automaker has indicated that it could expand the region going forward.