Volvo’s 2023 electric SUV will use lidar to drive itself

Enlarge / Volvo’s future SUV will in all probability resemble one thing just like the Concept Recharge first launched in June 2021.


Level three autonomous driving seems poised to debut within the US as quickly as subsequent yr.

At the 2022 Consumer Electronics Show yesterday, Volvo introduced that it intends to supply its Ride Pilot characteristic to prospects in California, pending regulatory approval. The automaker has been testing the system in Sweden, and it will start testing in California later this yr. It plans to ship the characteristic with its forthcoming all-electric SUV, due in 2023.

Volvo selected California as a result of “the climate, traffic conditions, and regulatory framework provide a favorable environment for the introduction of autonomous driving,” the corporate stated.

The system will allow drivers to direct their consideration to duties aside from driving, although they’ll nonetheless want to be ready to take over when the automobile requests intervention. What form of duties? Volvo mentions studying, writing, and dealing in its press launch, however napping seems to be out of the query for now.

“We’re still being very purposely non-distinct in the wake-up time that we require,” Henrik Green, Volvo’s chief technology officer, told The Verge. “Taking a nap requires a wake-up time, so let’s see how far and when we can get there. You need to be able to assume control in a certain time and take back the driving responsibility.”

It’s unclear how Volvo will distinguish between a driver who’s napping and one who’s studying. Eye-tracking cameras are the almost certainly resolution since nagging the motive force periodically would defeat the aim of Level three autonomy. We’ve reached out to Volvo for clarification.

Challenges forward

Level three presents a difficult center floor on the spectrum of autonomous driving. By definition, it will deal with most circumstances, however it requires the motive force to take over on comparatively brief discover. The system should establish handoff factors early sufficient so the motive force has time to reengage with the highway. That will be tough at excessive speeds, which might be why Mercedes-Benz is limiting its Level 3 Drive Pilot system to 37 mph (60 km/h) and solely enabling it on geofenced parts of highways.

Other firms like Cruise and Waymo are skipping Level three fully and going for Level 4. With these techniques, the automobile have to be ready to drive itself and monitor its environment—there’s no expectation for the human driver to take management in favorable circumstances. In unfavorable circumstances, like blizzards, people should still have to drive. Only with Level 5 are human drivers by no means required.

Many cars as we speak supply Level 2 autonomy. These superior driver help techniques, or ADAS, deal with features like automated cruise management and lane-keeping, however drivers usually have to preserve their arms on the wheel. Even extra refined techniques like GM’s Super Cruise and Ford’s Blue Cruise nonetheless require drivers to preserve their eyes on the highway.

Sensor suite

To allow Level three autonomy, Volvo’s forthcoming EV will be outfitted with one lidar scanner, 5 radar models, eight cameras, and 16 ultrasonic sensors. Inside the automobile, software program from Zenseact, a Volvo spinoff, will fuse information from the varied sensors to present a view of the highway. 

The lidar sensor will be Luminar’s Iris mannequin, which goes into mass manufacturing this yr. The firm claims that its lasers can reliably spot objects at 250 meters. They function at 1550 nm, a considerably longer wavelength than most others, which generally use 905 nm lasers. Luminar selected the longer wavelength as a result of it’s much less possible to be harmful to individuals’s eyes, permitting them to use higher-power lasers, although how protected 1550 nm lasers are appears to be an open question.

Volvo plans to supply Ride Pilot as a subscription quite than a one-time buy. That mannequin will give the corporate entry to recurring income—one thing many other automakers are chasing, too—however Green, the CTO, claims it will additionally permit extra individuals entry to the characteristic. “Not everybody sits on a big amount of cash available,” he advised The Verge. “Subscription is a very low hurdle you can try out.”

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