Volvo says that it will be testing self-driving cars on Swedish highways by 2017. Photo credit: Volvo Car Group

Self-driving cars, or autonomous cars as they're often called, are seen in many parts of the world as a potentially big advance in terms of both safety and fuel efficiency. Not only will they greatly reduce the number of accidents, say proponents, but by reducing highway traffic jams, they'll save a lot of fuel -- and possibly a lot of time as well.

Lots of automakers have already started moving toward a self-driving future. General Motors (NYSE:GM) will soon have a Cadillac that can do the driving for you under some circumstances, and Ford (NYSE:F) has shown a self-parking system along with other features that will likely be part of its self-driving cars in the future. And of course Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) has logged thousands of miles in cars using its prototype self-driving system.

The idea of a car that drives itself has received a lot of attention, but here in the United States, opinions have been mixed. It's likely to take out state and federal governments several years to figure out how to regulate the new technology.

But governments in some other countries have been much more enthusiastic. In Sweden, a country known for auto safety, the country's Transport Administration is pushing for autonomous cars as a way to reduce traffic fatalities.

Now, the Swedish government has enlisted some help from a famous name: Volvo. The Volvo Car Group is owned by Chinese automaker Geely (NASDAQOTH:GELYY) nowadays, but it's still very much a Swedish company -- and it's just as focused on safety now as it was when it was owned by Ford a decade ago.

Volvo says that it's pushing ahead with its plans for a self-driving car. As Fool contributor John Rosevear explains in this video, those plans include building 100 prototypes -- and letting them loose on Swedish highways for testing.


Fool contributor John Rosevear owns shares of Ford and General Motors. You can connect with him on Twitter at @jrosevearThe Motley Fool recommends Ford, General Motors, and Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford and Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.