If you were impressed when carmakers started testing self-driving vehicles on freeways, wait until you get a load of what Volvo has up its sleeves. Volvo Trucks announced Thursday that starting this fall and over the next year and a half it will be testing self-driving versions of its FMX truck inside the underground Boliden mine in Kristineberg, Sweden. SEE ALSO: Sorry Tesla, Woz says he's trading the Model S in for a Chevy Bolt EV Rather, it's keen to figure out how its autonomous technology can be applied to limited and geographically extreme areas. And I'd say it doesn't get a lot more limited or extreme than an underground mine. Just how extreme is this mine?
It was only a couple of years ago that auto makers started appearing at CES touting self-driving car systems. Now those vehicles are taking to the roads in various trials around the world and on Wednesday in Las Vegas, I got a chance to ride in an autonomous version of Hyundai's Ioniq four-door sedan. The car was capable of "level 4" autonomy, which means it can drive itself without human help. It recognized traffic signals and stopped when needed, was able to negotiate turns and slow down for other traffic and pedestrians. At the heart of the car are three laser imaging sensors that provide a 180 degree view of the surroundings ahead.
Volvo is adjusting the timeline on its ambitious Drive Me autonomous program until it can find the right sensors. "The development in sensor performance and processor capabilities is going so much faster than we expected in 2013," program director Marcus Rothoff recently told Automotive News Europe. "Because advancements are being made at such a rapid pace, we want to make this decision as late as possible."
Rolls-Royce revealed its plans to deploy autonomous ships back in 2016, outlining its strategy and a general overview of how the vessels would work. Now, the ship designer -- Rolls-Royce for shipping and Rolls-Royce the luxury automaker are separate corporate entities -- has announced that it's working with Intel to create cargo vessels that can navigate the oceans without a human crew onboard. Instead, the ships will have LIDAR, radar, thermal cameras and HD cameras as part of its intelligence awareness system. They'll also have server rooms to power the company's AI and to store the massive amounts of data all those sensors will collect. Intel's Field Programmable Gate Array technology will help Rolls-Royce solve design challenges and provide the components needed for obstacle detection and navigation.