This could be a game changer.
Volvo has long been known for its focus on safety, and the automaker has no plans for this to change as the era of autonomous vehicles is nearly here. Not only does Volvo know how to build cars that can keeps occupants safe in the event of a crash, but it's also rapidly developing technologies to prevent that crash from happening at all.
According to Automotive News Europe, Volvo has teamed up with U.S. technology company Luminar to further advance lidar sensing and perception, two key elements to make self-driving cars as safe as possible. What Luminar and Volvo are working on is a new technology capable of detecting human poses, such as individual limbs like arms and legs.
This level of precise detail has yet to be seen in lidar. Supposedly, this new tech can detect objects up to 820 feet away, or 250 meters. Luminar CEO and founder Austin Russell claims 30 meters to 40 meters from lidar systems is currently possible. Volvo adds this level of technology is vital because it plans to offer unsupervised highway driving capability on its next-generation flagship XC90 SUV, due to arrive in 2021. Capable of Level 4 autonomy, the next XC90 will essentially be capable of driving itself but the driver can still take full manual control when necessary.
"Perception is the cornerstone to solving the autonomous drive problem in a safe way," said Volvo R&D chief Henrik Green. "You need to see the object, understand what it is and, most importantly, predict the intent of that object." Volvo and Luminar aim to have this technology good to go for 2021, and there's plenty of work to be done before then. "Now we have to develop the software and the intelligence that can use this perception technology to actually identify millions of different objects and understand the intentions of those objects," Green said. "We have a huge workload ahead of us."
At the same time, both companies are working to apply this safety tech to Volvo's first fully autonomous, all-electric model, which will be based on the 360c concept. This concept, it must be noted, does not have a steering wheel.