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Volvo and Autoliv Form Autonomous Driving Venture Zenuity

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【Summary】Zenuity, the joint venture between Volvo and Autoliv has started its operations. The new company is a joint venture in the growing global market for autonomous driving software systems. At the company’s presentation at the 2017 GPU Technology Conference in San Jose, California, Zenuity stated its goal is to only focus on autonomous systems that are capable of “unsupervised driving”.

Original Eric Walz    May 11, 2017 4:20 PM PT
Volvo and Autoliv Form Autonomous Driving Venture Zenuity

By Eric Walz

Zenuity, the joint venture between Volvo and Autoliv, Inc. (NYSE: ALV), has started its operations. The new company will focus on the growing global market for autonomous driving software systems. It marks the first time a premium car maker has joined forces with a tier one supplier (Autoliv) to develop leading advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) and autonomous driving (AD) technologies.

"Volvo Cars combined its know-how with Autoliv's to create a world leader in autonomous driving safety systems. With Zenuity starting operations we move a step closer to delivering this exciting technology," said Håkan Samuelsson, President and Chief Executive Officer of Volvo Cars.

"Zenuity will enable us to deliver world leading, robust solutions for autonomous driving. The combined experience of Autoliv, the worldwide leader in automotive safety systems, and Volvo Cars, the premium car maker, will ensure solutions that meet the needs of car occupants in real life road conditions", said Jan Carlson, Chairman, President & CEO of Autoliv.

"In the last nine months we have worked hard to get Zenuity started and I am very pleased that we are now ready to start operations. The initial interest from automakers in Zenuity is very encouraging and we look forward to being a leader in the development of the next generation of safer and more automated cars," said Dennis Nobelius, CEO of Zenuity.

Autoliv will make a total investment of around $126 million into the joint venture, the large majority of which is an initial cash contribution, but it also includes intellectual property.  At the same time, Volvo will contribute intellectual property and engineering talent into the joint venture. As previously announced, Volvo and Autoliv will share ownership of the joint venture 50/50. The formation of the joint venture was first announced in September 2016.

Company Information

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Zenuity is headquartered in Gothenburg, Sweden and with additional operations in Munich, Germany, and Detroit, USA. The company's initial workforce is close to 300 employees from Volvo and Autoliv, well as new hires. Zenuity's workforce is expected to grow to over 600 employees in the medium term.

Both Volvo Cars and Autoliv will license and transfer intellectual property from their ADAS systems to the joint venture. From this base, the joint venture will develop new ADAS products and autonomous driving (AD) technologies. Zenuity is expected to have its first ADAS products available for sale by 2019 with AD technologies following shortly thereafter.

The mission for Zenuity is to use the latest ADAS data to create robust and flexible solutions that are at the technological forefront – for today and tomorrow. This will be achieved by utilizing extensive experience and real-life tested solutions. Customers will be offered flexibility to choose based on a platform with modular solutions, all offered in a timely manner to the market. Zenuity is further committed to shape the industry through the delivery of spearhead solutions that continuously push the AD boundaries.

Autoliv is the exclusive supplier and distribution channel for all Zenuity's products sold to third parties, and there will be no exclusivity toward any customer or the owners. Volvo Cars can source such products directly from the joint venture.

Zenuity details more plans at the 2017 GPU Technology Conference

At the company's presentation at the 2017 GPU Technology Conference in San Jose, California, senior technical lead for Volvo's safety and driver support Eric Coelingh announced that Zenuity's goal is to only focus on autonomous systems that are capable of "unsupervised driving" requiring no human intervention.

The company realizes that some research in early autonomy is a vehicle using human intervention and step down to a lower level of autonomy, when full autonomy is not available. However, Mr. Coelingh stressed that a self-driving car needs to function without requiring human intervention. Coelingh stated that "level 3 autonomy will not work", as drivers are incapable of quickly taking over a level 3 system in the event of a failure, so the company is not focusing on level 3 autonomy.

The company's plans for the next six weeks are to begin developing software for active safety systems, and working to deliver a complete software stack that encompasses algorithms for computer vision, perception, sensor fusion, path planning, decision making, and vehicle control, but also applications that run in the cloud. Zenuity will further develop software for these technologies.

The company will work together with Volvo to provide the entire software stack, which Autoliv will then sell to OEMS. He also stressed the importance of having cloud based ADAS, and autonomous driving systems.

Car Data in the Cloud

Zenuity wants to remove the data from embedded safety systems in cars and put it in the cloud. Currently, a strictly embedded system in an automobile is incapable of sharing its data with other vehicles, so the company is looking for a cloud based solution. Using a cloud based ADAS, potential hazards can be "pushed" to a vehicle ahead of time, including icy road conditions or accidents ahead, so the vehicle can react accordingly.

Although many companies are developing autonomous technologies for self-driving cars, Coelingh stressed that OEM's are ultimately responsible for their vehicles' safety. An industry acceptable safety rate of only one fatality per 3.7 million hours of driving is reachable. That is why the company wants to work directly with OEM's on safety.

Coelingh also stressed that whatever products the company develops needs to be scalable. This includes having uniform standards and reusable, affordable modules that can be outfitted in vehicles from standard cars to premium, luxury vehicles.  Zenuity is using Nvidia's Drive PX 2 platform to develop and power its technology.

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