LiDAR to enter scalable product architecture at Volvo

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LiDAR sensors blend into the roofline of new generation Volvo cars

Autonomous driving and advanced safety features are at the heart of Volvo’s decision to include LiDAR technology in its modular vehicle design architecture.

Volvo is continuing to take automotive safety further with a partnership involving Luminar for the use of the latter company’s LiDAR and perception technology in the next generation of the Swedish company’s cars.

Volvo sees the partnership as providing the capabilities for it to develop its first fully self-driving car for use on public roads as well as paving the way towards future active safety developments.

Evolving Architecture

During the last few years, Volvo has developed its SPA (Scalable Product Architecture), a platform approach that provides engineers at the company with a collective “memory” of what has gone before so there’s no re-inventing of the wheel and lessons are learnt from previous experiences in, for example, drivetrains, propulsion, ADAS or chassis design.

As developments are happening rapidly across all aspects of automotive development, the concept of SPA becomes all important for keeping abreast of change and retaining the best approaches. As new technology is developed to maturity, it is included within the modular SPA architecture and now the company is working on SPA 2, which will include hardware-ready equipment for autonomous vehicles from as early as 2022, at which time the Luminar LiDAR sensor will be seamlessly integrated into the roof of the body module.

According to Henrik Green, chief technology officer at Volvo Cars, cars based on SPA 2 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.

“Autonomous driving 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,” says Green.

Sensing complex environments

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 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 autonomous “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.

Production Ready Sensors

As part of the plan, it’s important that the sensors used in production vehicles have the required quality, reliability and production repeatability rather than being prototype compontents. To achieve this, Volvo and Luminar are deepening their collaboration to jointly ensure robust industrialisation and validation of Luminar’s LiDAR technology for series production.

This will be the first use of Luminar’s technology in series production and is a key step for the company to achieve the economies of scale required to bring the technology to the wider automotive industry.

“The next era of automotive 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,” says Austin Russell, founder and CEO of Luminar

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