In Stockholm an announcement this week of an increased tie-up between Volvo Cars and Luminar Technologies represents an important evolution between a dynamic young technology supplier company and a fast-evolving and uniquely positioned global automotive company. A relatively small Silicon Valley tech company is having a heavy influence on the shape of the global industry and the giant companies that represent its new face.
This story is about advanced product technologies that are being developed in Silicon Valley and are being embedded in core product planning for a next-generation vehicle under development by a Swedish/Chinese company – a global company that literally did not exist in its current form too many years ago. Volvo is owned by the Chinese automotive firm Geely Holding and it purchased an interest in Luminar, launching a collaboration for developing autonomous driving technologies. A few years later, they have announced plans for Volvo’s next-gen SPA 2 modular vehicle architecture to be integrated with autonomous drive technology from the start of production in 2022.
Luminar has said it is working with 12 of the world’s top 15 auto makers, in different development stages.
In this case, the Luminar Technologies sophisticated IRIS lidar system is planned to be a seamless component of the vehicle’s roof structure. Sensors will produce laser light pulses to produce extraordinarily detailed images of the environment around the vehicle. The increasingly precise images are fundamental to enable higher levels of driver assistance. Volvo is intending to be a leader in a stepped approach to introducing increasingly advanced autonomous systems for passenger vehicles.
From the NY Times article: “We have reached the point where we feel that this technology is so interesting and adds so much to the functionality we want to build, we now enter a project phase for taking this into production on our next platform,” Volvo CTO Henrik Green told Reuters.
The lidar and the highway pilot feature will start as an optional add-on for Volvo buyers and be rolled out step-by-step depending on local regulations and validation. Initial volumes will be low but the future potential is large, Green said.
The two companies are also exploring how lidar can help improve future advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), with the potential for equipping all future SPA2-based cars with a lidar sensor as standard.
“We are already looking at how this could be scaled over time, to get it even lower in price, and make it become something that we can start using more broadly also for active safety,” Green said.
GLDPMobility Solutions works in the automotive technology space supporting OEM and tech supplier testing and development, creation of city and state-level mobility strategies and implementation plans – including on and off-public road facilities and infrastructure for testing, development and certification, public transport system infrastructure planning, and adjustments to regulation. GLDPMobility Solutions also helps automotive sector companies develop government-business public private partnerships and refine supply chain facility location options.