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Next-gen Volvo XC90 to offer optional level four autonomy

by Ronan Glon

Volvo plans a complete hands-off, eyes-off system that lets the driver sleep.

The next-generation Volvo XC90 will offer level four autonomous capability in 2021, according to a recent report. Sleeping while you commute will come at a fairly cost, though.

Volvo will call the technology Highway Assist, according to The Car Connection. Henrik Green, the head of the company's research and development department, confirmed the idea is to let passengers -- even the driver -- sleep on-the-go in certain circumstances. He didn't detail these circumstances but the name strongly suggests it will be on a highway with clear lane markings, at least two lanes, and a center divider. Don't expect to sleep while the XC90 drives on a dirt road in rural Michigan.

Highway Assist will rely on data sent from the cloud, not from a vehicle-to-infrastructure communications system, to learn about the road ahead and its surroundings. Significantly, it won't ask the driver to take over in the event of an emergency.

Green conceded the technology will add a four-figure premium to the XC90. Getting it approved for sale in the United States is another hurdle Volvo needs to clear; Audi recently ran into jungles of red tape trying to gain approval for the A8's level three system and ultimately gave up.

The next-generation Volvo XC90 will make its debut around the turn of the decade. It's unclear at this point whether it will launch with Highway Assist, or if the option will become available a little bit later in the production run. XC90 production will take place in the factory the company just inaugurated in Charleston, South Carolina.

Photo by Ronan Glon.