Luminar Technologies has deepened relationships with Volvo Cars to develop an automated driving system for highways and eventually sell it to other automakers. The partnership announced on Thursday is between Luminar and Volvo’s self-driving software subsidiary Zenseact.
The two companies combine their technology to create what Luminar Founder and CEO Austin Russell calls the “Holistic Autonomous Vehicle Stack” for production vehicles. Volvo will be the first customer. Russell and Zenseact CEO Ödgärd Andersson said Thursday that they plan to offer this system to other automakers as well.
It’s worth noting how Luminar and Zenseact define freeway autonomy. The system they are developing would enable autonomous driving with free hands and eyes on highways. This means that the driver is no longer up to date and is not expected to take over the vehicle. The transition between this level of autonomy and manual driving is difficult and has taken automakers by surprise in the past.
“This is something that will only be resolved in the next few years. It will be available for vehicles that you can buy, starting with Volvo and then expanding outwards – that’s the difference,” Russell said in a webinar in which he discussed the announcement.
The stack offered to other automakers is called Sentinel and will integrate Zenseact’s OnePilot autonomous driving software solution along with Iris Lidar, perception software and other components from Luminar as a basis. According to Zenseact, the system is designed for the autonomy of motorways and a range of safety measures to proactively avoid collisions with evasive maneuvers and reduce the accident rate by up to seven times. The Sentinel product can also be upgraded wirelessly or wirelessly to expand the operational scope of autonomy and further improve vehicle safety over time, the companies said.
Zenseact may not sound familiar to me, but its 550-strong team has been working on ADAS and software for years. Volvo formed Zenseact after its joint venture with Veoneer ended.
Luminar and Zenseact found that while the autonomous industry is largely focused on robotaxi applications, it is focused on delivering systems in production vehicles. Lidar sensors are viewed by many automakers and technology companies as an essential technology for safely rolling out autonomous vehicles. With the extension of the schedule for the use of commercial Robotaxi fleets, automakers have turned back to the development of shorter-term technologies for production vehicles.
“The point of autonomous driving technology is to reduce accidents and save lives. This alliance enables us together to make this technology more widely accessible and therefore more effective, ”Andersson said in a statement.
The announcement comes roughly 10 months since Volvo announced it would start producing vehicles in 2022 equipped with Luminars lidar and a perception stack to deploy an automated driving system for highways. Volvo has announced that it will assume full liability for the automated driving system.