Volvo at CES announces Ride Pilot autonomy coming to California, deeper Google integration


Volvo just made a number of technology announcements at this year’s CES. We learned more about the company’s efforts toward autonomy, and in the near term, Volvo’s infotainment system is getting some noteworthy updates.

We’ll start with autonomy, and the system that Volvo is calling “Ride Pilot.” Volvo says it’s working with the autonomous driving software company Zenseact and Luminar to bring more autonomy to its future vehicles. Today, it announced that the “Ride Pilot” system that will ultimately arise from this collaboration will first be offered to customers in California before rolling it out in other regions. Volvo is limiting initial use to California, because it says “the climate, traffic conditions and regulatory framework provide a favorable environment for the introduction of autonomous driving.”

The system will take full control of the car when it’s on. That means the driver can do what they want, not limited to reading, writing or working, Volvo says.

“The name ‘Ride Pilot’ implies what the driver can expect: when the car is driving on its own, Volvo Cars takes responsibility for the driving, offering the driver comfort and peace of mind,” Volvo explains.

It’ll be available as an add-on subscription service to a fully electric SUV that will be revealed later this year. How much it will cost per month or per year is still a mystery, but you won’t be able to factor it in with the standard purchase price of the vehicle. Said EV will be equipped with five radars, eight cameras and sixteen ultrasonic sensors.

Testing for the above autonomy system is set to take place in California by the middle of this year, and it’s already ongoing in Sweden and across Europe. Only once Volvo says it’s verified for use on highways will this feature be available to subscribe to. Volvo does not provide a year estimate on the initial rollout.

Google and Android Automotive update

Volvo cars with the Google-based Android Automotive infotainment system will soon be integrated with the Google Home ecosystem and Google Assistant-enabled devices. This should give you greater ability to control your car with any Google Assistant device in your home. You could theoretically set charging scheduling (for an EV or PHEV), lock your doors or start the car via voice command — for more sensitive commands like unlocking the car, Volvo says it will require a two-factor authentication. Additionally, Volvo says it will soon add the YouTube app to its cars to allow folks to simply watch YouTube on the infotainment screen. This should prove to be helpful/entertaining when you’re charging up your electric Volvo. Volvo specifically states that video playback will not be possible while the vehicle is in motion.

Lastly, new Volvo cars are going to get a hardware upgrade that comes courtesy of Qualcomm. The chip company’s new Cockpit Platform chip will power Volvo’s infotainment systems of the future, and Volvo claims the upgrade will result in a system that is twice as fast as it is now. Plus, specifically when it comes to graphics-related screen functions, the system will be 10 times faster.

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