Volvo to start selling its first autonomous vehicle this year

Volvo Concept Recharge

Volvo Concept Recharge
Picture: Volvo

In collaboration with Luminar Technologies, Volvo announced an autonomous driving system called Ride Pilot Wednesday at the Consumer Electronics Show. Volvo customers in California will have access to Ride Pilot as a subscription service after 2022.

Based on feedback from Henrik Green, Volvo’s CTO, Ride Pilot would exceed the Society of Automotive Engineers criteria for level 3 vehicle range. Green said The edge, “We won’t need our hands on the wheel and we won’t need our eyes on the road.” That would place the Swedish automaker’s autonomous system more than a notch above Tesla’s Level 2 FSD beta, which requires a driver to be ready to take control of the vehicle at all times.

The Ride Pilot system includes a suite of sensors including a Luminar Iris LiDAR sensor, 16 ultrasonic sensors, eight cameras and five radars. Ride Pilot will be available on future electric vehicles from Volvo, including an yet to be named XC90 electric successor which will be available for purchase this year. Volvo’s subsidiary, Zenseact, developed the software for the autonomous system.

Volvo plans to deploy Ride Pilot to its California customers by obtaining a license to test its autonomous vehicles on public roads from the California Department of Motor Vehicles. It looks like the test fleet will consist of Ride Pilot subscribers only. Volvo hopes its subscription model will yield as many customers access to its stand-alone software whenever possible. Henrik Green said: “The subscription is a very weak hurdle that you can try.”

While the promised functionality of Ride Pilot looks impressive, I am wary of allowing any client in the State of California to use driverless technology on public roads for a trial period. The California DMV has yet to approve Volvo’s license, so there’s still a chance the department will reject the current conditions.

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