Volvo confident it can get its ‘unsupervised’ highway driving mode approved in California

Volvo introduced a brand new superior driver help system referred to as Journey Pilot system, in which its autos drive themselves on sure highways with none human supervision. Journey Pilot will probably be obtainable as a subscription service to clients in California, the corporate introduced on the 2022 Shopper Electronics Present.

It’s an formidable plan that carries its personal dangers and units Volvo other than its opponents, a lot of that are planning to launch self-driving know-how as a part of a robotaxi service slightly than manufacturing automobiles for private possession. However Volvo believes that by limiting the operational area — or situations beneath which the automotive can drive autonomously — to only highways, it is creating automobile know-how that isn’t solely safer however less expensive as effectively.

“We won’t require arms on the steering wheel and we won’t require eyes on the highway,” Henrik Inexperienced, the automaker’s chief know-how officer, mentioned in an interview with The Verge. However when requested whether or not drivers will be capable of take a nap in the automotive with Journey Pilot energetic, Inexperienced demurred.

“We’re nonetheless being very purposely non-distinct in the wakeup time that we require”


“We’re nonetheless being very purposely non-distinct in the wake-up time that we require,” he mentioned. “Taking a nap requires a wake-up time, so let’s see how far and once we can get there. You want to have the ability to assume management in a sure time and take again the driving accountability.”

Pending regulatory approval, the brand new function will solely be obtainable to clients in California at first. Inexperienced described the state as a “good geographic location in phrases of climate situations: it’s sunny, it’s received good highway situations.”

Volvo’s forthcoming (and unnamed) electrical SUV, which will probably be introduced later this 12 months, would be the first automobile to function Journey Pilot. Volvo’s Idea Recharge, which was revealed final summer season, is supposed to preview that SUV, in addition to how the brand new driver help system will probably be introduced with a totally built-in roof lidar from provider Luminar. The design of the Idea Recharge will seemingly be just like that of the electrical XC90 successor as a result of arrive later this 12 months.

Along with Luminar’s lidar, Volvo’s Journey Pilot system will probably be powered by software program developed by Zenseact, a subsidiary of Volvo which labored alongside the automaker’s personal workforce of engineers. Luminar, which is predicated in Florida, has labored intently with Zenseact’s workforce in Sweden on a full-stack autonomous driving software program for collection manufacturing autos.

283690 Volvo Concept Recharge

Volvo’s Idea Recharge electrical SUV, first revealed in the summer season of 2021.

Picture: Volvo

Inexperienced wouldn’t say when it plans on formally activating Journey Pilot, however he famous that it will nearly actually be someday after 2022. “What remains to be not tremendous clear is clearly the timeline each from our confidence and our validation that we’re good to go, and [the regulations] should be in place,” Inexperienced mentioned.

Journey Pilot is what the Society of Automotive Engineers would outline as a Degree 3 autonomous system, in which the driving force’s supervision is just not required in a extremely managed setting, like on sure mapped highways. However in Degree 3 methods, the driving force nonetheless must be able to take management at a second’s discover, leaving it considerably in a nebulous zone between Degree 2 superior driver help methods, like Tesla’s Autopilot, and totally driverless autos, like Waymo’s autonomous taxi service in Phoenix, Arizona.

Inexperienced wouldn’t say when it plans on formally activating Journey Pilot

California’s Division of Motor Autos oversees the most important autonomous automobile testing program in the nation, with over 60 firms permitted to function check autos on public roads. Solely a handful are approved to function totally autonomous autos with out security drivers on the wheel, and even fewer have been approved to deploy autos for business functions.

However what Volvo is searching for to do is a bit completely different. The automaker is making use of for a allow to check autonomous autos on public roads by way of the state’s Division of Motor Autos. Reasonably than deploy its autos as a part of a taxi or supply fleet, Volvo desires California’s approval to supply its Degree 3 autonomous system to clients as part of a subscription service — one thing the state has but to do for any firm.


292922 Volvo Cars Concept Recharge with Luminar s Iris LiDAR on


In keeping with the DMV, an organization wishing to deploy Degree 3 succesful autos on public roads should get hold of authorization from the state earlier than making their know-how obtainable to clients. Volvo has not utilized for a deployment allow but, a spokesperson for the company mentioned in an electronic mail.

Providing Journey Pilot as a subscription presents a decrease hurdle to customers, Inexperienced mentioned, given the big percentages of people that lease their autos slightly than personal them. “Not everyone sits on a giant amount of money obtainable,” he mentioned. “Subscription is a really low hurdle you can check out.”

Different automakers have been tripped up by the promise of Degree 3 driving

Most AV firms, together with Waymo and Cruise, have mentioned they’re skipping Degree 3 and dealing completely on Degree 4 know-how. The reason being that Degree 3 is seen as being probably harmful, given the probability that drivers will probably be confused about when they should takeover management of the automobile.

Different automakers have been tripped up by the promise of Degree 3 driving. In 2018, Audi mentioned its A8 sedan would include a function referred to as Visitors Jam Help that, when energetic, would relieve human drivers of the necessity to concentrate throughout stop-and-go site visitors. But the feature was contingent on approval from local authorities, and Visitors Jam Help stays dormant in most markets world wide. Audi has no plans to activate the function, and Degree 3 automation stays a morass of authorized, regulatory, and business-related challenges.

292920 Volvo Cars Concept Recharge safety illustration

One other potential hurdle is the potential for misuse by clients. An excellent instance is Tesla’s Degree 2 “Full Self-Driving” beta software program that, regardless of its deceptive title, nonetheless requires drivers to be vigilant whereas in use. Tesla’s clients typically ignore the corporate’s warnings and misuse Autopilot to file themselves performing harmful stunts. Any such rule-breaking is to be anticipated, particularly in a society the place clout-chasing has develop into a lifestyle for many individuals.

Inexperienced says it’s a communications and a know-how problem for Volvo to make sure its clients know when they should take over and when they’re misusing the system.

“It must be clear in the communication to the buyer,” he mentioned. “It must be clear contained in the automobile when you are working it. So a vital space.”

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