Volvo makes deal to integrate LiDAR technology

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Volvo Cars is partnering with tech firm, Luminar, to integrate its LiDAR and perception technology into next-generation models. The partnership is intended to deliver Volvo’s first fully self-driving technology for highways and paves the way for future active safety developments.

The first result of the deal will be seen in 2022, when Volvo Cars’ next-generation SPA 2 modular vehicle architecture will be available as hardware-ready for autonomous drive, with a Luminar LiDAR system integrated into the roof.

Existing cars based on the SPA 2 architecture 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 to operate in 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,” said 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.

The Luminar LiDAR systems will be integrated into the roofline of future Volvos

LiDAR sensors 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 need for internet connectivity. LiDAR is key to creating cars that can navigate safely in autonomous mode, providing them with a reliable level of vision and perception that cameras and radar alone cannot provide.

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. The combined technologies will give Volvo owners access to a 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,” said 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.”

As part of the announcement, Volvo Cars and Luminar are deepening their collaboration to jointly ensure robust industrialisation and validation of Luminar’s LiDAR technology for series production. Volvo Cars has also signed an agreement to possibly increase its minority stake in Luminar.

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.”

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Adam divides his time as an editor between the worlds of aviation and motoring. These worlds may seem a little diverse today, but autonomous technology and future urban mobility is bringing them ever-closer. Adam is also chairman of the Vehicle Dynamics International Awards.

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