Volvo Car South Africa says its next-generation range of vehicles will be “hardware-ready” for autonomous drive, ready for local legislation to change.

The Swedish firm’s local arm made the comments after the brand announced a partnership with tech firm Luminar to provide LiDAR and “perception technology” for Volvo's next-generation vehicles.

The partnership will deliver Volvo's first fully self-driving technology for highways, with the company saying it “paves the way for future active safety developments”. Volvo Cars has also signed an agreement to “possibly increase” its minority stake in Luminar.

Volvo Cars' next-generation SPA2 modular vehicle architecture will be available as hardware-ready for autonomous drive from production start in 2022, with the Luminar LiDAR “seamlessly integrated” into the roof.

SPA2-based vehicles will be updated with software over the air and if customers decide to opt for it, a fully autonomous highway driving function (dubbed “Highway Pilot”) will be activated once it is verified to be safe for “individual geographic locations and conditions”.

Greg Maruszewski, managing director of Volvo Car South Africa, said “the question on the lips of South Africans is whether or not this technology will be available to use on South African roads".

"The cars will be produced 'hardware-ready' for autonomous drive. This means that the car can become autonomous when legislation in South Africa is ready. The Luminar technology will be integrated from production start in 2022 as an option and we expect to see these cars available for purchase in South Africa sometime thereafter," Maruszewski confirmed.

Henrik Green, chief technology officer at Volvo Cars, added autonomous drive had the potential to be “one of the most lifesaving technologies in history, if introduced responsibly and safely".

In addition to the Highway Pilot feature, Volvo Cars and Luminar are also exploring LiDAR's role in improving future advanced driver assistance systems, with the potential for equipping all SPA2-based cars with a LiDAR sensor as standard.