How Will Volvo’s Autonomous Vehicle Work?

It feels like a race to the finish as so many automakers are pledging to be fully electric in a few years. More new EVs are announced every day or are in the works. Couple that with plans to get to the point of truly autonomous vehicles, and a lot is happening quickly. Volvo is the latest brand to make headlines about its upcoming autonomous car.

A Volvo dealership building with a light blue and dark blue front.
Volvo dealership | Getty Images

Volvo’s plan to stop making gas-powered vehicles

Part of the push for Volvo jumping right into the EV market is not just plans to produce some electric vehicles but to only produce electric vehicles. Volvo has said that it plans to go fully electric by 2030. 

With other big automakers like GM also racing toward target dates of 2035, the company that reaches the finish line first would have a serious stake in the market. 

Volvo is already converting its plant in Charleston, South Carolina to make way for the shift to further their goal. Still, it is rather ambitious to jump from beginning to make EVs to debuting an autonomous vehicle.

What Volvo has in the works for its autonomous vehicle

So the details are fuzzy, but as Jalopnik reports, Volvo announced in early January at the Consumer Electronics Show that it would be rolling out an autonomous vehicle this year. While the particulars of that electronic SUV haven’t been announced, Volvo has shared info about its software. 

Volvo’s calling its system Ride Pilot, and it’s being developed in conjunction with Luminar Technologies. Henrik Green, Volvo’s Chief Technologies Officer, commented to The Verge that Volvo’s software would “not require hands on the steering wheel and we [would] not require eyes on the road.” 

That level of autonomy would be more than the Society of Automotive Engineers criteria for Level 3. As a reference, Tesla’s famed Full Self Driving (FSD) Beta is at Level 2 right now, where a driver must be able to take control quickly of the vehicle.

The software for Ride Pilot will work by having Luminar Iris LiDAR sensors, 16 ultrasonic sensors, eight 360-degree cameras, and five radars to boot. All of those will work together to operate the car without operator input.

There are, of course, some obstacles in the way of producing fully self-driving cars. As Kelley Blue Book writes, Volvo still needs approval from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to test its autonomous vehicle on the streets. Waiting for those approvals and subsequent testing realistically pushes Ride Pilot’s debut date further out.

Other EV autonomous platforms

The most widely talked about software is arguable Tesla’s FSD Beta, which is expected to release version 11 soon. While Tesla has been working through difficulties, from crashes while filming promotional videos to several other unfortunate impacts, the EV maker continues to improve its FSD software.

Other companies working on autonomous vehicles include Waymo, a Google subsidiary project robotaxi company in California. It is currently testing its driverless taxis on the streets of San Francisco.

Another contender in the autonomous vehicle taxi landscape is Cruise, backed by GM and based in California like Waymo. However, Cruise is slightly behind Waymo and is still seeking a commercial robotaxi permit.

In addition, other manufacturers are at various levels of testing and development for autonomous vehicle platforms. One is the Lucid Air, which calls its system DreamDrivePro, and like Volvo’s plan, uses a combination of radar and cameras to operate the vehicle without driver input.

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