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Monday, October 18, 2021
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A paradigm shift

Volvo Concept Recharge and Google are reshaping the next generation of Volvo car development

Al-Futtaim’s Trading Enterprises, the exclusive distributor of Volvo Cars in the UAE, said last month that electrification is more than simply a shift in powertrains and “represents a new paradigm in car design and the Volvo Concept Recharge is a manifesto for the next generation of all-electric Volvos.”

Volvo Cars revealed details of the electric successor to the Volvo XC90 SUV early in the summer under a new strategy dubbed Concept Recharge in June this year.

Reacting to its unveiling, Al-Futtaim’s Trading Enterprises said in a statement that Concept Recharge has the mantra of ‘less but better’ at its core: “For example, by removing the complexity of the internal combustion engine, the designers have been able to evolve the car’s proportions to increase interior space while also improving aerodynamic efficiency. The result is a car that offers genuinely better solutions to support a sustainable family life.”

Volvo’s first generation of electric cars shares a floor with combustion engine-powered cars, which requires a balance in proportions and space to be able to accommodate both a battery pack and an internal combustion engine.
By removing the engine and replacing it with a full battery pack under the flat floor, the designers have extended the wheelbase and the wheel size of the car. The result is shorter overhangs, as well as a lot more interior space including a large storage area between the front seats.

In the Concept Recharge these advancements have led designers to reposition the seats, optimise the roof profile and lower the hood of the car while retaining the high eye point beloved by drivers of cars like the Volvo XC40, XC60 and XC90. This approach creates efficiency gains in aerodynamics compared to a typical SUV, which improves range.
This concept car also introduces a new Volvo design language. Continuing the theme of ‘less but better’, all unnecessary elements have been removed and what remains is treated with a high-precision, flush execution.

The traditional grille has been replaced with a shield-like structure, supported by a new interpretation of Volvo Cars’ Thor’s Hammer headlight design. These include the latest HD technology-enabled pure graphic which open at night to reveal the main lamp units.

Signature vertical rear lamps connect to the brand’s strong design heritage but are reimagined with a set of wings that extend at higher cruising speeds to further improve overall aerodynamics.

Volvo Concept Recharge

“Our Concept Recharge represents a manifesto for the all-electric future of Volvo Cars, as well as a new type of vehicle,” says Robin Page, head of design. “It displays new and modern proportions that go hand-in-hand with increased versatility and shows what technology can enable in terms of design.”

The Volvo design language also takes a new form inside the Concept Recharge. The flat floor provides more space and a better seating position for all those inside the car.

A large, 15-inch standing touch screen is the centre of a new and improved user experience for the company’s next-generation connected infotainment system. Designed to be logical and intuitive to use, technology helps provide a serene and calm experience. The latest infotainment technology goes hand in hand with those other hallmarks of Scandinavian design: clean lines and extensive use of sustainable and natural materials inside the cabin.
“Inside the Concept Recharge, we create a truly Scandinavian living room feeling,” adds Page.

“The interior integrates our latest user experience technology with beautiful, sustainable and natural materials. Each part of the interior is like a piece of art and could stand alone as individual furniture in a room. We use the latest technologies but not for their own sake. We always focus on the benefits that technologies can bring.”

Finally, the Concept Recharge also reflects Volvo Cars’ safety ambitions in coming years. A LiDAR sensor, built by technology company Luminar and a critical part of Volvo Cars’ plan for forthcoming safe autonomous drive technology, is placed in an optimal position on the roof to collect data on the environment around the car.

“With the Concept Recharge we continue the rich roots of Volvo’s design DNA in a modern and fresh way as we move into our all-electric future,” remarks Page. “It represents everything we believe customers expect from a pure electric Volvo and we’re excited to take this philosophy into our next generation of cars.”

Beyond Volvo Cars’ next generation of fully electric cars, customers can also look forward to a car that gets better every day and offers a simple, serene and seamless Volvo user experience – from getting a car, to being inside it and controlling it on your mobile device.

The Volvo Car Group was the first car maker to introduce cars with an infotainment system powered by Android Automotive OS with Google Assistant, Google Maps and Google Play built-in. It now continues its strategic collaboration with Google to take infotainment and connectivity to the next level.

The next generation of Volvo Cars’ approach to user experience is part of the VolvoCars.OS, an umbrella of the various operating systems in electric Volvos across the car and the cloud, and starts with Android Automotive OS and a new in-car display approach.

Intertwining engineering and design, Volvo Cars and Google are together building a user experience for simplicity to optimise safety. The user experience design is built on a clear split of information for the driver, according to the level of relevance while behind the wheel.

A high-resolution driver information screen gives the driver the most relevant information related to driving, such as speed and battery levels. A heads-up-display helps keep key information in front of the driver without having to glance away. Future Volvo cars will also come with a large, centralised touch screen that provides rich content, easy-to-see information and responsive interaction. The principle is that everything customers need should always be easily accessible, either by touch or by voice command. No immediate needs or information are buried deep inside menus, many clicks away.

The result is a simple user experience that is consistent, clean, easily scannable and takes a minimalistic and contextual approach. It provides only the right and required information at the right time and ensures that Volvo drivers can focus on driving and remaining safe on the road.

“Our teams have spent a lot of time with Google to further develop and improve our user experience for the next generation of Volvo cars,” said Henrik Green, chief technology officer. “Especially in terms of safety, serenity and simplicity, we have made great strides thanks to a deeper integration of design and technological development. We are convinced that it will allow us to create even better Volvo cars and set a new industry standard.”

To truly benefit from developing software in-house, Volvo Cars is also centralising computing inside its fully electric cars into a core system, removing a lot of complexity. Rather than relying on multiple electronic control units around the car that control individual features and systems, an increasing amount of in-house developed software will run in a powerful core computing system in the car.

The core computing system, which will first be introduced on a new Volvo model set to be revealed in 2022, is made up of three main computers. These support each other in operating vision processing and artificial intelligence, general computing and infotainment respectively. The shift to centralised computing also allows Volvo Cars to gradually separate hardware from software. This means the company can introduce more frequent hardware cycles, so that new Volvo models can be equipped with the latest available hardware.

Volvo Cars is making the shift to in-house development and central computing working together with leading technology firms, such as processor-maker NVIDIA.

“We have a deliberate strategy of partnering with true technology leaders where it makes sense,” added Green. “Google is a true leader in user experience and services, from Google Maps to Google Assistant, while NVIDIA gives us access to some of the fastest and best computing available. This approach of selected strategic partnerships is much more effective than trying to do everything on our own.”

Volvo Cars’ successful collaboration with technology leaders to give its customers the best possible user experience is also a driving factor behind its decision to open up its VolvoCars.OS to third-party innovation through open APIs. Beyond the screens inside the car, Volvo’s next generation of fully electric cars will come with a seamless connection to your mobile device.

The next generation of Volvo cars use your phone as a key and the Volvo Cars app will connect you to everything else that comes with a modern life and electric car ownership.
Features such as finding and paying for charging and connecting to your home devices will be included, as well as popular remote features already appreciated today such as pre-heating and -cooling.

As part of Volvo Cars’ recently announced new commercial strategy, its electric cars are available online via volvocars.com. Customers can order from the comfort of their own home or place an online order together with their retailer. Each pure electric Volvo comes with a convenient Care offer including items such as service, warranty, roadside assistance, as well as insurance and home charging options where available.

All electric Volvo cars will receive regular software updates and new functionalities over the air (OTA), ensuring that a Volvo car gets better over time. The company’s move towards in-house software development will increase development speeds and a faster deployment of regular OTA updates.

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Stephen Whitehttps://truckandfleetme.com/
Stephen White was formerly editor of Big Project ME.
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