Volvo’s New Safety Pioneer Ready to Drive Itself
Volvo has finally taken the wraps off its new EX90, a seven-seat electric SUV set to go on sale next year.
As well as stylish minimalist looks, a 373-mile range and up to 380 kW of power, the EX90 will, according to Volvo CEO Jim Rowan, deliver a safety standard “beyond any Volvo car before.” That’s quite a claim from the company that has led the way in pioneering safety innovations in the auto industry.
This advance is attributed by Rowan to the car’s array of sensors powered by what he says is Volvo’s “unique combination of advanced core computing and software,” which enables “improvement and safety in the digital age like the three-point seat belt in the late 1950s.”
The EX90 is fitted with one of the most advanced sensor sets on the market, which comprises five radars, eight cameras, two interior cameras and 16 ultrasonic sensors. But the headline act is the standard integration of a roof-mounted lidar sensor supplied by Luminar.
“It’s not just any lidar – because they are not all the same,” Rowan said. “Our lidar senses the road in front of you in daylight or complete darkness at highway speeds – something as small and unreflective as a black tire on a black road at 120 meters ahead or a pedestrian at 250 meters.”
Ultimately, Volvo believes the deployment of this new generation of safety tech can help reduce accidents resulting in serious injury or death by up to 20% and overall crash avoidance by up to 9%.
The sensing tech is complemented by Nvidia’s Xavier and Orin processors and Volvo’s in-house software to create a real-time, 360-degree view of surroundings. This has resulted in an enhanced Pilot Assist system, which now offers, for example, support in changing lanes.
Longer term, though, the EX90 clearly has all the requisite hardware ready for unsupervised, hands-free driving – such as Mercedes’ Level 3 Drive Pilot delivers – but Volvo is remaining coy at this stage as to what level of autonomy will be made available. An upgrade would be a simple job via an over-the-air update thanks to the car’s 5G connectivity, although regulatory approval would need to be secured.
Inside the EX90, the tech is equally impressive. Here two camera sensors and the capacitive steering wheel monitor the driver’s eye gaze and posture to detect when they are tired or not focused, allowing alerts to be issued. There is even the ability to automatically stop if it is sensed the driver is unable to control the vehicle because of a medical emergency.
Starting price for the EX90 in the U.S. is likely to be just under the $80,000 mark, with pre-orders being accepted now.