Decades from now, our grandchildren will sit mesmerized on our laps as we recount to them strange tales of the days when we actually had to drive our cars ourselves. That is – if we still have laps to sit on, as we might have long since rid ourselves of the need for physical bodies by then, making the whole idea of a car even stranger to them.
At any rate, it’s clear that the age of human-driven vehicles will likely be coming to an end over the next couple of decades. If you’re still skeptical, just take a look at the massive investments major automakers are making into self-driving vehicles and related technologies. The latest automaker to signal the shift towards autonomous vehicles is Volvo, who just this week has invested in a startup developing some of the most sophisticated lidar sensors on the market.
Lidar, an acronym for “light detection and ranging,” is the technology which makes up the ‘eyes’ of self-driving cars. Lidar sensors work by beaming laser light pulses at their surroundings and measure the light which bounces back, enabling lidar-equipped cars to ‘see’ what’s around them.
Volvo Cars signed a massive deal with lidar startup Luminar, an Orlando-based manufacturer of lidar systems.Luminar has already signed a deal to supply Toyota vehicles with lidar systems, but this deal with Volvo also includes what the Swedish automaker is calling a “strategic investment.” Neither Volvo nor Luminar has disclosed the amount, but Luminar CEO Austin Russell the investment is “substantial” and that he can “easily see [Volvo] as being one of the first to get real self-driving cars on the road at the end of the day.”
Aside from lidar sensors, Luminar is also developing software which allows autonomous vehicles to map their surroundings in full 3D, enabling a higher level of precision than current systems. Could this deal suggest that Volvo may be a surprise contender to get self-driving cars on the market?