STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Volvo Cars is deepening ties with lidar sensor specialist Luminar, and has struck a deal with the Silicon Valley-based start-up to integrate its technology in its new car platform, SPA 2, the Sweden-based car maker said on Wednesday.
Volvo, owned by China’s Geely Holding, bought a stake in Luminar in 2018 and has been collaborating with the company on developing the technology, which it sees as key for autonomous drive and its initial plan to offer a highway pilot feature.
“Volvo Cars’ next generation SPA 2 modular vehicle architecture will be available as hardware-ready for autonomous drive from production start in 2022, with the Luminar lidar seamlessly integrated into the roof,” Volvo said in a statement.
Lidar sensors use laser light pulses to render precise images of the environment around the car, and are seen as essential by many automakers to enable higher levels of driver assistance right up to making them capable of self-driving.
“We have reached the point where we feel that this technology is so interesting and adds so much to the functionality we want to build that we now enter a project phase for taking this into production on our next platform,” Volvo CTO Henrik Green told Reuters.
The lidar and the highway pilot feature will start as an optional add-on for Volvo buyers and be rolled out step-by-step depending on local regulations and validation. Initial volumes will be low but the future potential is large, Green said.
The two companies are also exploring how lidar can help improve future advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), with the potential for equipping all future SPA2-based cars with a lidar sensor as standard.
“We are already looking at how this could be scaled over time, to get it even lower in price, and make it become something that we can start using more broadly also for active safety,” Green said.
Luminar said it was currently working with 12 of the world’s top 15 auto makers, in different development stages.
“This deal is the first delivery of our technology into series production and a key step to achieving the economies of scale that are required to bring the lidar and perception to the wider automotive industry,” it said.
The firms also said they had signed a deal for Volvo to “possibly increase” its minority stake in Luminar, but Volvo declined to comment by how much or under what circumstances.
Reporting by Johannes Hellstrom; editing by Richard Pullin