Volvo has been vocal about its progress regarding autonomous driving, and this year is no different. Their latest development? Volvo's upcoming models can be specified with LIDAR technology to further enhance the autonomous driving experience.

But first, what is LIDAR and how does it work? LIDAR stands for Light Detection and Ranging or Laser Imaging, Detection, and Ranging. It's commonly used for land surveying, archeology, geography, seismology, physics, and laser guidance. It works by emitting millions of laser light pulses at the direction it is pointed, allowing it to scan and detect objects in real-time. It then reads the data in 3D, creating a temporary, real-time map without requiring internet connectivity. LIDAR's range is further than that of standard radars and lasers, which is vital for autonomous driving.

Volvo cars could have hands-free highway driving tech by 2022 image

The Swedish automaker's future SPA2 (Scalable Product Architecture 2) vehicles will be available with this tech. It's dubbed the Highway Pilot, and one of the first that will get LIDAR-based autonomous driving could likely be the next-generation or heavily updated XC90. The radar will be mounted on the roof of the vehicle by the center of the windshield. Volvo believes that LIDAR tech will allow its autonomous driving system to be even more reliable in detecting obstacles on the road.

Volvo plans to introduce Highway Pilot by 2022 as an option for the aforementioned XC90. They claim the vehicle equipped with this feature will allow the vehicle full autonomous driving on expressways. The system can be activated by the driver once it is verified to be safe for individual geographic locations and conditions. With that, it seems you can't use it in city traffic or winding roads just yet. There are Volvo's automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assist, however, to keep you on the road and away from harm.

This being Volvo, you can bet that they will try to make this feature standard in all their cars within the next couple of years. Perhaps in a decade, you can drive a Volvo hands-free along our nation's highways.