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May 7, 2020

Upcoming Volvos May Come with This Peculiar Bump on the Roof

The next-generation of Volvo cars will come with this little bump on the roof. Now, before you think that it’s a rally-inspired scoop of some kind, it’s actually LiDAR tech which should enable full self-driving technology, at least for highways.

Volvo’s next-generation of vehicles, underpinned by a new modular architecture called SPA 2 will be hardware-ready for autonomous drive as they roll off the production line in 2022. Tech firm Luminar will provide the LiDAR equipment which will be integrated into the roof.

Volvo says that 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 for individual geographic locations and conditions.

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). Potentially, all future SPA 2-based cars will come with the 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.

As part of the announcement, Volvo Cars and Luminar are deepening their collaboration to jointly ensure robust industrialization 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.

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