An all-electric successor to the Volvo XC90 will be unveiled in 2022, the automaker confirmed on Thursday. In addition to an electric powertrain, Volvo’s next flagship SUV will have new sensors and computers that enable more advanced driver assistance technology.
The XC90 successor will receive a luminar lidar and a more powerful computer with the Nvidia Drive Orin chip as standard, according to a press release from Volvo. Volvo previously confirmed plans to incorporate Luminar roof-mounted lidar sensors, which the automaker has been funding since 2018.
Lidar, which is similar to radar but uses light waves instead of radio waves to detect objects, is seen as critical to self-driving cars by most automakers and technology companies. Most of the self-driving car prototypes currently being tested on public roads use lidar as part of a trifecta of sensors, along with radar and cameras.
Information from lidar and other sensors is managed by the new Nvidia chip. The XC90 successor will also receive backups for key functions such as steering and braking, making it “hardware ready for safe unattended autonomous driving as soon as it becomes available,” said Volvo.
Sensor suite for the electric successor Volvo XC90
The hardware will work with new software developed in-house to enable a feature called Highway Pilot, which enables “autonomous driving” on freeways, Volvo said. However, it is only activated “if it is safe and legally permitted for individual geographic locations and conditions”.
That sounds similar to Audi’s traffic jam pilot, which enables motorway journeys with minimal human involvement. Audi started fitting some models with lidar sensors a few years ago to anticipate the introduction of Traffic Jam Pilot, but discontinued the function due to regulatory and liability concerns.
Volvo believes its driver assistance technology will get smarter over time, thanks in part to over-the-air software updates. According to Volvo, the systems are gradually becoming more powerful so that they can intervene in more situations.
The modular SPA platform of the new Volvo XC90
The successor to the XC90 will be based on Volvo’s new SPA2 architecture, which replaces the SPA (Scalable Product Architecture) platform underlying the current generation XC90 and several other Volvo models. The platform will use different central floors for electric vehicles compared to gas-powered vehicles. Volvo is also expected to launch a version of the SUV coupe, possibly called the XC100 Recharge.