The march towards automotive automation is speeding up and, despite however many petrolheads shudder at the thought of not actually driving their cars, it is an inescapable reality – and Volvo’s next generation cars will all be hardware ready for autonomous drive from 2022.
Volvo Cars is partnering with tech firm Luminar to provide their industry-leading LiDAR and perception technology for Volvo’s next generation cars.
Volvo Cars’ next generation SPA 2 modular vehicle architecture will have the Luminar LiDAR seamlessly integrated into the roof.
Cars based on SPA 2 will be updated with software over the air and if customers decide to opt for it, the Highway Pilot feature that enables fully autonomous highway driving will be activated once it is verified to be safe for individual geographic locations and conditions.
“Autonomous drive has the potential to be one of the most lifesaving technologies in history, if introduced responsibly and safely,” says Henrik Green, chief technology officer at Volvo Cars. “Providing our future cars with the vision they require to make safe decisions is an important step in that direction.”
In addition to the Highway Pilot feature, Volvo Cars and Luminar are also exploring LiDAR’s role in improving future advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), with the potential for equipping all future SPA2-based cars with a LiDAR sensor as standard.
Luminar’s technology is based on its high performance LiDAR sensors, which emit millions of pulses of laser light to accurately detect where objects are by scanning the environment in 3D, creating a temporary, real-time map without requiring internet connectivity.
LiDAR is key in creating cars that can navigate safely in autonomous mode, providing them with the reliable vision and perception that cameras and radar alone cannot provide. LiDAR is the ideal basis for safe decision-making in complex environments at high speeds.
To enable the Highway Pilot feature, Luminar’s perception technology will be combined with autonomous drive software and the cameras, radars and back-up systems for functions such as steering, braking and battery power installed on forthcoming Volvo cars equipped for self-driving. Put together, this gives Volvo users who want it access to a safe, fully self-driving feature for use on highways.
“Soon, your Volvo will be able to drive autonomously on highways when the car determines it is safe to do so,” says Henrik Green. “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.”
“We know that the question on the lips of South Africans is whether or not this technology will be available to use on South African roads,” comments Greg Maruszewski, Volvo Car South Africa MD. “The cars will be produced ‘hardware-ready’ for autonomous drive. This means that the car can become autonomous when legislation in South Africa is ready. The Luminar technology will be integrated from production start in 2022 as an option and we expect to see these cars available for purchase in South Africa sometime thereafter.”
For Silicon Valley-based Luminar, partnering with Volvo Cars represents the company’s first delivery of its technology into series production. This is a key step to achieving the economies of scale that are required to bring the technology to the wider automotive industry.
“Volvo is recognised as the pioneer of automotive safety, having driven standardisation across the industry for the most advanced life-saving technologies,” said Austin Russell, founder and CEO of Luminar. “The next era of safety lies within autonomous driving and once again, Volvo has taken the lead with a major industry milestone. We’ve solved the key cost, performance, and auto-grade challenges to make series production possible, and alongside Volvo are making the technology available to the world.”