The gorgeous 2024 Volvo EX90 made its official debut earlier this week. The all-electric SUV may seem to be any other SUV with Thor’s Hammer in its headlights (although somewhat smoothed down for the electric era), but what really distinguishes it is a small roof-mounted lidar device.
Volvo’s fast implementation of lidar in the EX90 makes it one of the market’s first mass-production cars with such a technology. The high-definition image sensor is not only an important aspect of Volvo’s safety strategy, but it is also the secret sauce behind the company’s promise of vehicle autonomy, which the EX90 is “hardware capable” of attaining.
The sensor suite on the EX90 includes eight cameras, five radars, sixteen close-range ultrasonic sensors, and one forward-mounted lidar unit. According to Volvo, when these components are combined, the EX90 will have hardware capable of running independently. The Ride Pilot function has not yet been made available to the general public. Volvo says that when the feature is released, it will take a conservative approach, limiting the feature to specific Operational Design Domains (ODD) such as high-definition mapped highways and only operating in optimal conditions, though this will become more lenient over time as Volvo gains confidence in its system.
Volvo has a lengthy history of deviating from the SAE-defined degrees of driving autonomy. A Volvo spokeswoman confirmed this to Edmunds earlier this year, insisting that Ride Pilot, although not complying with any specific SAE standard, will be autonomous.
McIntyre’s description seems to suit, at the very least, Level 4 autonomy, which means that the person behind the wheel is not driving while the function is activated. If Ride Pilot returned control to the driver if it became uncertain about the surroundings, it would be degraded to Level 3. And if the automobile could travel in all situations (rather than only those specified by certain ODDs), it would be elevated to Level 5.
It is vital to note that the hardware required for autonomous driving is just a small percentage of what is required to solve self-driving. With lidar-equipped commercial cars on the road today, there are several safety, software, and regulatory challenges that even seasoned professionals are having difficulty overcoming. If Volvo does provide Ride Pilot throughout the EX90’s service life, it’s uncertain if the car will really get it. Though all future next-generation Volvos will supposedly feature lidar in the future, and if other cars with the same sensor stack acquire Ride Pilot, the EX90 may as well.