Volvo just showed how its cars can reach Level 4 autonomy - the one where you get to go to sleep

Luminar’s LiDAR. Picture: Volvo

Volvo is working on a LiDAR system for vehicles that can predict human behaviour from 250 metres away.

That’s 10 times better than the best systems in place in autonomous vehicles right now, and it could be the key to bringing Level 4 autonomy to our roads.

Level 4 is the level at which a car is trusted to do just about anything without human input other than getting on and off a highway.

The LiDAR itself was developed by San Fancisco based startup Luminar, and Volvo is just one of 18 companies it’s currently partnered with, including Toyota.

But Volvo also has a concept car called the 360c, and it’s using Luminar’s LiDAR to help it refine technology it calls “pose estimation”.

Here’s the gif version from Luminar:

That’s from 250 metres, enough to give even a truck seven seconds to pull up at highway speeds.

Volvo has a promotional video explaining the 360c concept in which it admits was designed as a “conversation starter”. It says “technology needs to be developed, legislation needs to evolve and consumers need to be able to trust autonomy with proven safety”.

That’s overlaid on the money shot where a commuter lies down and tucks a comfy blanket around herself to settle in for the journey.

The concept was revealed at the Automobility LA trade show in Los Angeles this week. Luminar CEO Austin Russell says Luminar’s LiDAR can see at “near camera-like resolution”:

According to VentureBeat, Luminar revealed itself just last year along with a $US36 million funding injection. The closer partnership with Volvo was announced in June, when “Volvo took a stake in Luminar via an investment from its Volvo Cars Tech Fund”.

LiDAR is a sensing technology that produces images by sending out laser light pulses and measuring them as they bounce back.

Volvo’s “pose estimation” technology is developed to spot warning signs that other drivers or pedestrians are behaving erratically and safety measures need to be taken.

Luminar’s public point of difference over other LiDAR developers has been getting it to work effectively on wavelengths that are safe for human eyes, allowing it to be projected at much greater distances.

Russell told IEEE that Luminar was “in discussions concerning series production of real vehicles for 2021 to 2022”.

Watch the full demonstration here:

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