Volvo is touting the EX90 as its most advanced vehicle ever. The EV crossover features an array of sensors, including a LiDAR bump on its roof that will enable autonomous operation, or “self-driving”, after the car’s initial release.
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The software needed to make the Volvo Ex90 into an autonomous vehicle is still under development, but Volvo is is already looking at how to monetize self-driving features on a recurring basis. And, of course, this means that the Swedish carmaker is strongly considering putting its most advanced vehicle’s AV software behind a subscription service, according to Automotive News.
Doing so would be a big departure from the traditional model of car production. For decades, automakers have refrained from installing parts that would just go unused on certain models, reserving costly or complex assembly with additional equipment only for models that yield more profit. But, according to Volvo, every “EX90 will come standard with the same 16 ultrasonic sensors, eight cameras, fiver radars and roof-mounted LiDar.”
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These cameras and sensors ostensibly make the Volvo EX90 the safest car the company has ever built, but the full potential of the hardware — self-driving — will likely end up being exclusively for subscribers. Volvo is considering either walling off the software and any updates behind a monthly fee, or a one-time subscription that owners can opt for, say, when going on a long road trip.
That doesn’t change the fact that some owners will never pay for the software, turning the EX90's advanced sensors into expensive and partially useless add-ons. Volvo has essentially flipped the model of production: the carmaker will spend more upfront during production, only to recoup its investment further down the line as its subscriber base grows.
That’s not to say Volvo is writing off a great amount of money or subsidizing EV assembly due to the EX90's hardware: the car will still start at around $80,000, per AN. And the carmaker insists that the EX90's standard equipment is mostly about safety:
The lidar system can “see” up to 200 yards in front of the vehicle, and, for now, its role will be limited to improving safety. But Volvo has installed a slew of other parts that will work with the lidar to someday enable the EX90 to drive itself. [...]
“All of this technology is helping us get to our main goal,” Kalsaria said. “The EX90 will have the most advanced sensor set on any Volvo, and it will be the safest vehicle Volvo has ever built.”
So the hardware will still serve a purpose, but on some level the EX90's suite of cameras and computers will just be wishful thinking on Volvo’s part. Please like and subscribe, says Volvo.