Volvo Cars to debut autonomous driving Ride Pilot feature in California

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Volvo Cars customers in the state of California will be the first to be able to take advantage of its unsupervised autonomous driving feature, Ride Pilot, following the completion of an extensive testing program.

The new feature will enable drivers to free up time while driving, and spend it on secondary activities such as reading, writing, working or socialising. The feature can also help drivers arrive at their destination rested and recharged, by reducing the mental strain that may come with driving, especially in traffic jams or heavy traffic.

Ride Pilot will be available as an add-on subscription on the company’s forthcoming fully electric SUV. To be revealed later this year, it will feature over-the-air software updates in combination with a state-of-the-art sensor set-up. The software is developed by autonomous driving (AD) software company Zenseact together with Volvo Cars’ in-house team of developers, and developers from Luminar, one of its technology partners.

The sensor set-up consists of more than two dozen sensors, including Luminar’s cutting-edge Iris lidar sensor, which work hand in glove with the developed software. Luminar’s lidar sensor will complement five radars, eight cameras and 16 ultrasonic sensors. Together with continuous, over-the-air software rollouts, the system will ensure full redundancy and enable Volvo Cars to achieve safe autonomous driving with Ride Pilot.

“We are proud to announce the planned US launch of our first truly unsupervised autonomous driving feature, as we look to set a new industry standard for autonomy without compromising safety,” said Mats Moberg, head of research and development at Volvo Cars. “Having Zenseact’s brand-new AD software and Luminar’s lidar standard in our new fully electric SUV is a game-changer for Volvo Cars, as well as for automotive safety and autonomous driving.”

“Luminar’s vision is to democratize next-generation safety and autonomy, and we’re already seeing this become a reality with the first vehicle launching on Volvo’s new platform” added Austin Russell, founder and CEO of Luminar. “With Luminar as standard on every vehicle, their next SUV has the opportunity to be the safest vehicle on the road.”

While this software-sensor combination, and the safety it enables, will be standard, available from day one on Volvo Cars’ forthcoming fully electric SUV and improved over time, Ride Pilot will be made available to customers only once it has gone through Volvo Cars’ rigorous verification and testing protocol. This includes validation of the technology as safe for use on highways in a number of varying conditions.

Road testing

As part of this verification process, Volvo Cars is already testing autonomous driving functionalities on roads in Sweden together with Zenseact, and collecting data across Europe and the USA. By the middle of this year, the company intends to begin testing on roads in California, where the climate, traffic conditions and regulatory framework provide a favourable environment for the introduction of autonomous driving.

“Delivering a new safety standard for the industry requires a level of rigorous testing and verification that will expand globally,” said Ödgärd Anderson, CEO of Zenseact. “Zenseact AD software plays a key role in this new standard and in the journey towards zero collisions.”

Once it has been verified as safe and all necessary approvals have been secured, the company’s ambition is to introduce Ride Pilot in California first, before gradually rolling out in other markets and regions around the globe.

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With over 20 years experience in editorial management and content creation for multiple, market-leading titles at UKi Media & Events (publisher of Autonomous Vehicle International), Anthony has written articles and news covering everything from aircraft, airports and cars, to cruise ships, trains, trucks and even tires!

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