Volvo’s flagship electric SUV will come with Luminar’s lidar and software as standard

Volvo Cars and Luminar Technologies are beefing up their partnership. The two companies said Thursday that Luminar’s autonomous driving stack – a combination of hardware and software that includes lidar sensors and a proprietary perception system – will be standard on Volvo’s forthcoming flagship electric SUV.

Luminar had previously announced the production deal with Volvo last May. But at that time, Luminar’s stack was going to be optional on the flagship vehicle — an upgrade that would add on cost. Now, it will be built into each vehicle as a matter of course.

However, customers will still have to pay if they want to take advantage of the Highway Pilot functionality. That capability, which will be available only when the vehicle is driving on a highway, puts the driver out of the loop — they won’t even have to actively monitor the vehicle, as is common in some systems already on the road today, a source familiar with the technology told TechCrunch. It’s the highest capability of autonomy that the system offers, and if customers want it, they will have to pay for it.

That functionality will be activated wirelessly when the conditions are verified to be safe, Luminar said in a news release. What customers won’t have to pay for is a suite of safety capabilities, like automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping, that target the most common cause of car accidents.

The deal is undoubtedly a major boon for Luminar. In addition to higher production volumes, the company will also benefit from the many thousands of driving miles its system will be exposed to — valuable data that it can feed back into its autonomous driving stack. The system will also be capable of wireless over-the-air updates, so drivers should benefit as it grows ‘smarter’ over time.

Volvo did not reveal how much the Highway Pilot add-on will cost, nor whether it will be available in a subscription model or as a one-time purchase. But the carmaker did say that all vehicles will be “hardware ready” for unsupervised autonomous driving once it’s available.