Volvo will sell a Level 4 self-driving crossover SUV in 2021 to the public, the company's research and development chief told The Car Connection on Wednesday.
Volvo Senior Vice President Henrik Green said the next-generation XC90, which will be built at the automaker's new assembly plant near Charleston, South Carolina, would be able to transport "sleeping passengers" toward their destination on limited roadways. Green said the initial plan would be to semi-automate commutes.
"That is the goal, yes," Green said.
MORE: Read our 2018 Volvo XC90 review
The technology would be called Highway Assist, similar to Pilot Assist, which the company already sells on current models.
Green said the system would be a premium add-on to the XC90 and would cost "four figures" but didn't specify how much that would be.
Level 4 semi-autonomous driving technology would largely be a step beyond systems available to the public now, and wouldn't default to driver control if emergency action is needed.
Volvo has tested similar systems in limited areas around the company's Gothenburg, Sweden, headquarters but so far in the U.S. has only supplied vehicles for limited self-driving tests to companies such as Uber.
Green said the Highway Assist program would use cloud-based information—perhaps map data—to drive the car, but wouldn't rely on vehicle to infrastructure communications systems. The system would use lidar, radar, and cameras built into the car.
Volvo says it will work with federal and state regulators to approve the self-driving system, which so far has been a hurdle for other automakers such as Audi to introduce Level 3 semi-autonomous systems or beyond.