Volvo EX90 reorients lidar to create ‘invisible shield of safety’

Volvo’s next-generation EX90 electric crossover will introduce lidar technology that cocoons the vehicle in an “invisible shield of safety.”

Lidar is a remote sensing method that uses laser light pulses to render precise images of the environment around the vehicle.

While automakers typically embed safety sensors in the vehicle grille or front fascia, Volvo positioned the lidar unit on the EX90’s roofline. For a good reason.

Volvo Cars exterior design boss, T. Jon Mayer, describes the lidar unit as the eyes of the vehicle.

Placing the lidar sensor in the grille would be like having “eyes on your knees,” limiting vision to the vehicle directly in front, Mayer said.

“But if you put it up high, you can see above that car and beyond,” he said.

Volvo said the EX90’s lidar, from Luminar, can detect pedestrians up to 820 feet away, even at highway speeds.

Designers considered integrating the lidar under the windscreen but discovered the windshield rake compromised the sensor’s effectiveness.

“We have 100-degree wide vision on the lidar that is always scanning what’s in front,” Mayer said. “We have to integrate this thing in the optimal position, which is on the roof.”

Beyond early detection, the roof mount also protects the sensitive and expensive sensor from damage in a collision or from road debris.

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