The basic principle of an autonomous car is that it must perceive the road and other obstacles as the human driver does. Currently, no fully autonomous car is available for sale, there are only semi-autonomous. To make a vehicle autonomous there are many technologies, including LiDAR (Light Direction and Ranging) which has already been implemented on test vehicles, but never for sale. This is where Volvo plans to make a difference.
The Swedish manufacturer aims to market vehicles using LiDAR technology. However, if to date no manufacturer has managed to use this calculation method for production vehicles, it is good that there are reasons. For starters, LiDAR technology is extremely expensive, but it also imposes constraints in terms of design. Indeed, it must be complicated to sell cars with large bulky domes on the roof.
As a concrete example, Tesla CEO Elon Musk simply refused to use this technology and did not hesitate to call it ugly. “LiDAR is a crazy race. Anyone who relies on lidar is doomed. Condemned! (These are) expensive sensors that are not needed. It’s like having a bunch of expensive appendages. As if an appendage was bad, well now you have a bunch of it, it's ridiculous, you'll see. "
Despite Elon Musk’s statements about LiDAR, it must be recognized that this technology offers impressive 360-degree detection, it deserves to be exploited. Anyway, that’s Volvo’s way of thinking.
The manufacturer pushed its research to finally find the American startup Luminar which managed to produce LiDAR installations at a relatively accessible price and especially to integrate this technology as discreetly as possible on a vehicle.
As you can see in the front image, Volvo has managed to integrate LiDAR technology very discreetly, making it almost as big as a brake light. So yes, this installation cannot see 360 degrees, but we can imagine that the same module is at the back to monitor the vehicle's turn.
Volvo said the first vehicles with LiDAR technology should be on the market by 2022.