Volvo is reaffirming its position as one of the safest carmakers by introducing LiDAR technology to its next-generation production cars, in its efforts to achieve Level 3 autonomous driving – no driver-intervention required in pre-configured “safe zones”.

LiDAR is a popular technology used in many self-driving car prototypes. The technology uses pulses of laser lights to accurately provide depth and position information, creating a temporary real-time 3D map without requiring internet connectivity. However, due to its really large size and cost, the technology is rarely seen on production vehicles.

LiDAR sensor visualised

Elon Musk has famously dismissed the LiDAR technology, calling it ugly and said anyone who’s relying on that technology are doomed. However, Volvo’s partner Luminar, where the carmaker is a minority shareholder, seems to have solved the issues in both size and cost – well enough to be included in a production car.

Based on the images provided by Volvo, it seems that the LiDAR module will not be able to sensing the full 360-degrees. Volvo says that the LiDAR hardware will be used in conjunction with cameras, radars and back-up systems to achieve its first fully self-driving technology for highways, dubbed “Highway Pilot”.

Volvo Cars chief technology officer, Henrik Green said, “Autonomous drive has the potential to be one of the most lifesaving technologies in history, if introduced responsibly and safely. Providing our future cars with the vision they require to make safe decisions is an important step in that direction.

Volvo's LiDAR module provided by Luminar

“Soon, your Volvo will be able to drive autonomously on highways when the car determines it is safe to do so. 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,” added Henrik Green.

Volvo also said that the “safe zones”, which are highways in this case, can be gradually added to the car’s system via over-the-air updates, enabling a safe roll-out of the technology in stages.

In addition to the Highway Pilot feature, Volvo will also be using the LiDAR to further improve future advanced driver assistance systems.

Volvo will be introducing the LiDAR sensor on its forthcoming cars based on the SPA2 modular vehicle architecture starting from 2022.


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Woon
Believes that a car is more than just numbers and facts, it's about the emotions they convey. Any car can be the right car for someone, but he'll probably pick a hot hatch over anything else.