We’ve extensively covered the Volvo EX90 launch but spoke little about the tech magic that makes the new Volvo flagship tick. The new flagship SUV is packed full of sensors and computers, making every other car on the road look like an underbaked carriage. But all the hardware bits would be lifeless without the help of cleverly designed software, which makes everything run smoothly and dependably, ensuring future-proofing in the process.
Unlike Tesla, which likes to have everything developed in-house, Volvo spent no time designing either hardware or software. Instead, it partnered with technology giants like Google, Qualcomm, Nvidia, Luminar, and others to create the most advanced car platform on Earth. This helped speed up the development of the EX90 and ensures it will stay relevant in the years to come via over-the-air updates.
We already know the Volvo EX90 packs a unique suite of sensors to scan the surroundings, including a Luminar LiDAR unique on a production vehicle. All these sensors feed a powerful computer that runs on the Nvidia Drive AI platforms Xavier and Orin. Both are state-of-the-art hardware AI platforms, able to process an insane amount of data, enabling the EX90’s Ride Pilot to offer self-driving features pending regulatory approval.
The software that powers the Nvidia Drive AI platforms was developed in-house by Zenseact, a Volvo subsidiary. Zenseact worked closely with Luminar and Volvo engineers to build the autonomous driving software that powers the Volvo Ride Pilot system. The platform enables hands-free driving without the driver needing to watch the road, a feature that will go live in California as soon as state regulators approve it.
While Nvidia takes care of the autonomous driving functions and safety, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Cockpit Platform powers all the human-machine interaction and the car’s underlying functions. These include the infotainment system, all the core functions inside the vehicle, and the battery management system.
On the driver’s end, Epic Games’ Unreal Engine takes care of the high-quality graphics on the in-car screens and the head-up display. The Unreal Engine is used in some of the world’s best-selling games enabling lightning-fast computing power and detailed 3D graphics.
Volvo has a long-time connection with Google regarding infotainment systems, and the EX90 is taking this to a new level with Android Automotive. The 14.5-inch center display is the gateway to almost all car controls. There are almost no physical buttons in the cockpit of the EX90, all the functions being controlled by touch or voice. It could arguably lead to driver distraction, but Volvo promises this is not the case with the Volvo EX90’s interface.
Unlike Tesla, Volvo’s electric flagship features a second display for the instrument cluster. The small floating screen is packed with useful information, including contextual indications meant to reduce distraction. These depend on the driving situation, also when the car runs on Ride Pilot in hands-free mode. As Volvo puts it, it offers you “the right information at the right time.”
Android Automotive offers a range of native Google and third-party apps, like Maps for navigation and Google Assistant for hands-free control of many functions. The Google Play Store is built-in, enabling thousands of apps to be installed. We’re not sure about games, although the hardware and software are more capable of running the most graphic-intensive titles.
The Volvo EX90 also offers phone-key technology as standard. This means the car can communicate with your smartphone as you approach, automatically unlocking the doors and starting the personal welcoming sequence. Your profile is automatically loaded when you enter the car, with all the preferences and settings you saved.
Last but not least, the EX90 is also a concert hall on wheels. Volvo has always had a love affair with audiophile tech, and the EX90 makes no exception. The new, reference-quality Bowers & Wilkins audio system features Dolby Atmos as a Volvo-first. The sound system includes headrest-integrated speakers for an immersive experience.