<p><em>Erik Coelingh, senior technical leader at Volvo Cars, with the very first autonomous XC90 and the Autonomous Driving Brain that will be used in the Drive Me project in Gothenburg. Photo courtesy of Volvo.</em></p>

VIDEO: Volvo’s First ‘Drive Me’ Project Car

Volvo Cars officially kicked off its Drive Me public autonomous driving experiment on Sept. 9, when the automaker produced the first car that will be used in the Sweden-based project.

The Volvo XC90 SUV, completed in Volvo Cars’ Torslanda manufacturing facility, is the first of a series of autonomous cars that will eventually be handed over to families in the Swedish city of Gothenburg for driving on public roads.

Volvo currently offers a semi-autonomous function called Pilot Assist on the company’s 90 series cars. Pilot Assist provides gentle steering inputs to keep the car properly aligned within lane markings while traveling up to 80 mph — without the need to follow another vehicle. The Drive Me cars will add hands-off and feet-off capability in special autonomous driving zones around Gothenburg. Volvo will collect feedback and input from these participants, who will use the cars in their everyday lives.

“By choosing this customer-focused approach, Volvo aims to further fine-tune its autonomous driving technologies and make its offering as relevant as possible to customers ahead of a commercial introduction around 2021,” the company said in a released statement about the project.

After rolling off the production line, the Drive Me cars will undergo rigorous testing by Volvo engineers. After this phase is completed, the cars will be transferred over to customers participating in the Drive Me pilot.

“This is an important milestone for the Drive Me project,” said Erik Coelingh, senior technical leader for active safety at Volvo Cars, as he observed the final touches being made to the initial car. “Customers look at their cars differently than us engineers, so we are looking forward to learn how they use these cars in their daily lives and what feedback they will give us.”

The Drive Me pilot project in Gothenburg is the first in a number of planned public trials with autonomous Volvo cars. A similar project will be launched in London next year. Volvo is also assessing bids from interested cities in China to launch a Drive Me project there within the next few years, the automaker said.

Volvo also engages in strategic partnerships in the realm of autonomous drive technology. Last month, Volvo launched a new partnership with ride-sharing company Uber to jointly develop the next generation of autonomous cars. Last week, Volvo also revealed plans to set up a new jointly owned company with automotive supplier Autoliv to develop next-generation autonomous driving software.

To view a Volvo video about how the Drive Me project is progressing, click on the photo or link below the headline.