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SPA Gen 2 Volvo XC90 Coming in 2021 to Offer Level 4 Autonomy

Highway Pilot skips Level 3, will allow “unsupervised” highway non-driving

RIDGEVILLE, South Carolina — Volvo will offer Level 4 autonomy called Highway Pilot when the SPA Generation-2 XC90 begins production in the automaker's just-opened U.S. assembly plant here in 2021.

Volvo's primary goal "is to get to Level 4 for the unsupervised part of the journey," R&D chief Henrik Green told reporters at the factory opening here Wednesday.

By "unsupervised," Highway Pilot will allow drivers to let the Volvo XC90 drive itself without having to be ready to take over. That was the initial plan of Volvo's 50-car Drive Me pilot test in Gothenburg, Sweden, last year. But Volvo pulled back on letting the drivers divert their attention or even sleep while behind the wheel on approximately 30 miles of highway near company headquarters over safety concerns.

Volvo now plans to skip Level 3 because of concerns about the nebulous space between driver assistance and unsupervised self-driving vehicles, and go directly to Level 4. The Highway Pilot system will communicate with the Cloud, but will continue to drive itself if it is disconnected. You will be able to go to sleep while the XC90 drives you along certain sections of limited access commuter road, Green said.

Whether it is offered in the U.S. from the outset depends on federal U.S. regulatory policy. Highway Pilot could be offered in parts of Europe before it is offered here. The Ridgeville plant starts building 2019 Volvo S60s this fall at an expected annual rate of about 60,000 units, for global consumption.

The 2022 Volvo XC90, to be built on the second generation of the Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) begins production in 2021 in Ridgeville, which has capacity of 150,000 vehicles per year. The XC90 also will be exported globally from the U.S. Expected pricing of the Highway Pilot will be a "four-figure" premium, Green said.