How Volvo Plans To Make the Upcoming EX90 EV ‘the Safest Volvo’ Ever

Volvo is using lidar to build its already impressive repertoire for passenger protection and driver assists.

byRob Stumpf| PUBLISHED Sep 21, 2022 1:21 PM
How Volvo Plans To Make the Upcoming EX90 EV ‘the Safest Volvo’ Ever
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Volvo has always put safety first as its core principle. As it prepares to debut its all-new flagship SUV, the EX90, the Swedish automaker is keeping true to its promise by making it the very first Volvo equipped with lidar.

On Wednesday, Volvo previewed the reveal of the EX90 with a teaser that focused on the vehicle's safety rather than its physical appearance. CEO Jim Rowan says that the driving assist features, which are built primarily around Volvo's new forward-facing lidar unit, go "beyond that of any Volvo before it" and is expected to reduce death or serious injury by 20 percent, and overall crashes by around nine percent.

The EX90 will be the first vehicle in Volvo's lineup to use a lidar unit, the core component of the SUV's so-called "invisible shield of safety." Lidar stands for "light detection and ranging," and is essentially another set of eyes for the car to map out a 3D picture of the world around it using depth-measuring lasers. The unit is molded into the SUV's roofline and works alongside eight cameras, five radars, and 16 ultrasonic sensors. Rowan says that the lidar sensor gives the vehicle a clear picture out to 820 feet, which is around 7.5 seconds of traveling distance at highway speeds, all without the need for ambient light like a camera-based sensor.

Eventually, all new Volvo vehicles will offer lidar as a standard appointment. The technology will ultimately be used in Volvo Ride Pilot, the company's take on Level 3 partial autonomy.

Volvo also built an improved driver monitoring system into the EX90 that it calls "Driver Understanding." Two occupant-facing cameras and a capacitive steering wheel are used to monitor the driver for drowsiness or inattentiveness. Should the driver fall asleep or become ill while driving, the system is designed to bring the vehicle to a stop and call for help.

“We believe the EX90 to be the safest Volvo car to ever hit the road,” said Joachim de Verdier, head of safe vehicle automation at Volvo Cars, according to Automotive News Europe. “We are fusing our understanding of the outside environment with our more detailed understanding of driver attention. When all our safety systems, sensors, software, and computing power come together, they create a preventative shield of safety around you—and you won’t even know it’s there until you need it.”

Volvo's move toward lidar has been a long time coming. The company first invested in lidar-maker Luminar in 2018, anticipating the need for its safety tech in future Volvo cars. However, the technology was quite expensive at the time. It has significantly decreased over time, though, from upwards of $75,000 in the early 2010s to Luminar's pricing of $1,000. This affordability is what enabled Volvo to equip its vehicles with lidar as standard equipment and, despite being called a "crutch" by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, will be the key to increasing safety in Volvo's future vehicles.

Volvo is holding off on showing the EX90 in full just yet. While some rendered lidar-like images are used to show off the tech in Rowan's keynote video, the automaker is keeping the vehicle under wraps until it is revealed in full on Nov. 9.

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