Volvo has announced plans to put autonomous vehicles on public roadways by 2017. The project, described as the world’s first large-scale autonomous driving experiment, will get started next year by means of customer research and technology development before a fleet of 100 test vehicles hit the street of Swedish city Gothenburg a few years later.

The pilot project is called Drive Me and is a joint initiative between the automaker, the Swedish Transportation Administration, the Swedish Transport Agency, Lindholmen Science Park and the city of Gothenburg.

The public tests will take place across roughly 30 miles of predetermined roads, we're told. Volvo said the vehicles will be capable of performing all driving functions although a human driver is expected to be available for occasional control should the need arise.

Autonomous vehicles are still a ways off in terms of general availability as there are all sorts of hurdles to overcome. The project, Volvo claims, will help them gather data about the societal and economic benefits of driverless cars, infrastructure requirements and how to handle various traffic situations. They also anticipate seeing how other drivers interact with autonomous vehicles and will gauge customers’ confidence in the vehicle’s ability to keep them safe, etc.

Aside from being extremely convenient, self driving cars are expected to reduce traffic-related injuries by 90 percent and save the US economy about $450 billion annually. General availability isn’t expected until at least 2025, however, according to experts.