Volvo will begin installing lidar on its production cars in the near future as it moves closer to truly autonomous driving. The company announced today that it will install the tech starting in model year 2022, and the XC90 will be the first model to receive it.
The photo above shows how Volvo and the lidar tech company Luminar intend to integrate the technology into the car. Unlike many of the sensors and radar boxes we see in bumpers these days, lidar systems are mounted at roof height. The design looks almost like a mini roof scoop on a supercar, but it’s much smaller and mounted too far forward.
We’re told to expect this lidar tech to be integrated into vehicles based on Volvo’s next-gen SPA2 architecture, of which the XC90 will be first. And of course, there is a rather large caveat. The hardware is autonomous ready, but the software won’t be, at least not at first. Volvo says it will eventually push out over-the-air updates to provide “fully autonomous highway driving.” The feature will be called Highway Pilot, and it will be available to activate once it’s verified to be safe for “individual geographic locations and conditions.”
“Soon, your Volvo will be able to drive autonomously on highways when the car determines it is safe to do so,” says Henrik Green, CTO of Volvo. “At that point, 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.”
Volvo says that it’s considering equipping every new car based on its new architecture with lidar as standard equipment. It’s also looking to see how lidar tech could improve current driver assistance systems run by radar and cameras. For now, it’s unclear when Volvo will actually turn on the software to allow for fully autonomous highway driving.
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