UPDATE: Volvo reached out to InsideEVs to clarify the situation. The delay is not related to LiDAR, but rather to additional time needed for software development. We've updated some text to make this clear. The automaker stated:
The Volvo EX90 is highly advanced and features a shift to core computing and a next generation sensor set including a lidar. The adjusted time plan for start of production of the EX90 communicated on May 11 is connected to additional time needed for software development, but it is not related to the lidar integration.
Volvo Cars has delayed the introduction of its flagship electric vehicle, the EX90 SUV, by five to six months to mid-2024.
The announcement was made by CEO Jim Rowan on the company's earnings call on July 20. The executive explained that the delay of Volvo Cars' biggest product launch since the XC40 in 2017 is caused by "the complexity of the software code."
More specifically, Volvo engineers are having difficulty integrating the software into the EX90's new SPA2 platform that's shared with the Polestar 3.
"We're writing a lot of [the] software ourselves. We wanted to make sure that the first time we put lidar into our safety stack ... it operates in the way it should," Jim Rowan said on the call according to Automotive News.
He added that the delay gives Volvo engineers "a little bit more time to get that done." However, that also means that the electric luxury SUV's market debut could be pushed back to the third quarter of 2024.
LiDAR is a key differentiator for Volvo, as the flagship EV is the brand's first model to incorporate LiDAR and will offer it as standard equipment – it's optional on the Polestar 3.
Gallery: 2024 Volvo EX90 North American Debut
Self-driving car sensor startup Luminar Technologies will supply Volvo with its Iris LiDAR and Sentinel software, which needs to be integrated with Volvo software in the EX90.
The LiDAR system is part of the EX90's road-monitoring system, which includes cameras, radars, and ultrasonic sensors. Volvo said LiDAR can detect pedestrians up to 820 feet away, even at highway speeds. The remote-sensing LiDAR technology uses laser light pulses to render precise images of the environment around the vehicle.
According to the automaker, LiDAR and other sensors on the Volvo EX90 create an "invisible shield of safety" that can help reduce accidents that result in serious injuries or death by up to one-fifth.
Volvo's decision to bundle the expensive technology as standard equipment sets it apart in the industry. LiDAR components for vehicles with Level 2 autonomous capabilities start in the $1,500 to $2,000 range; LiDAR for cars with Level 3 capabilities are even more expensive.
The decision to delay EX90 production clearly wasn't easy for Rowan, but it shows determination to get the product right out of the gate.
The EX90 will be the first EV built at Volvo's plant in Ridgeville, South Carolina. Production at the 2.3 million-square-foot plant was initially scheduled to start in late 2023, but in light of Rowan's announcement, it will probably be pushed into 2024.