Most new cars sold today include a bevy of sensors such as cameras and radar to help power modern conveniences like automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assist. Very few automakers, however, sell cars with the high-powered laser sensor known as LIDAR, and for good reason: most LIDAR are ridiculously expensive, with the leading suppliers pricing theirs at around $75,000. But now, Volvo says it has found a LIDAR maker that can produce the sensors cheap enough to justify installing them on its consumer vehicles — which it says will allow these cars to drive themselves.
From an article in The Verge by Andrew J. Hawkins.
In 2018, Volvo made a “strategic investment” in a little-known Florida-based LIDAR company called Luminar to use the startup’s high-resolution long-range sensor to build self-driving cars. Today, Volvo is announcing that new LIDAR-equipped cars, which the Swedish automaker says will be able to drive themselves on highways with no human intervention, will start rolling off the production line in 2022.
It’s an ambitious plan that carries its own risks and sets Volvo apart from its competitors, many of which are planning to launch self-driving technology as part of fleets of robotaxis rather than production cars for personal ownership. They argue this will help amortize the costs of not just the LIDAR, but also the high-powered computing power needed to enable self-driving cars. But Volvo believes that by limiting the operational domain — or conditions under which the car can drive autonomously — to just highways, it is creating vehicle technology that is not only safer, but less costly as well.
“We are saying that for a particular stretch of highway, we are aiming for an unsupervised experience,” Henrik Green, Volvo’s chief technology officer, told The Verge. “Our view is that by isolating the domain to particular sets of highways, which we can control and verify, we believe that’s the safe entry into autonomous technology and autonomous experience for users.”
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