- volvo is putting luminar lidar hardware as an option on all second-generation vehicles built on its scalable product architecture (spa), starting with the 2022 xc90.
- the lidar sensor will give the vehicles the hardware it needs for full self-driving, according to the automaker.
- the software needed to complete the autonomous-driving capability will be added to the vehicles at a later date via over-the-air update.
volvo, the automaker well known for its commitment to safety, is continuing its path into the world of autonomous-capable vehicles. volvo announced that its second generation of modular scalable product architecure (spa2) vehicles will ship with hardware capable of self-driving, including lidar from partner luminar.
the vehicles will go into production in 2022, and the xc90 will be the first volvo to get the hardware that will make it capable of self-driving in certain situations. the software needed to pull off the feat will be delivered at a later time via an over-the-air (ota) update. in other words, your 2022 xc90 will not be able to drive itself in 2022. if that sounds familiar, it's the same game plan used by tesla: build the cars with the necessary hardware and add the software at a later time when it's ready.
one of the pieces of hardware that will make that possible is a lidar system from luminar. but instead of the weird hockey-puck-shaped device we've become accustomed to seeing on test vehicles, the lidar element will be a mostly discreet bump right above the windshield. lidar uses lasers to measure distance and shares that information with the vehicle as a three-dimensional map.
combined with other sensors, the upcoming volvos (with updated software) will be capable of fully autonomous highway driving in certain locations and under certain weather conditions, according to the automaker. volvo calls this package highway pilot, and volvo chief technology officer henrik green said that, once enabled, "your volvo takes responsibility for the driving and you can relax, take your eyes off the road and your hands off the wheel. over time, updates over the air will expand the areas in which the car can drive itself. for us, a safe introduction of autonomy is a gradual introduction."
"autonomous drive has the potential to be one of the most lifesaving technologies in history, if introduced responsibly and safely," green said in a statement.
the lidar on these new cars likely won't sit dormant waiting for the software to be deployed. volvo says it’s investigating using the luminar hardware to advance the vehicle’s driver's assist features. the company is also looking into making lidar standard on all vehicles. so even if drivers decided not to opt in to the feature, they will probably reap the benefits via better lane-keeping and adaptive cruise control.