Swedish automaker Volvo Cars said that it will add lidar sensors and new perception technology from Silicon Valley start-up Luminar to some of its models starting in 2022.

Luminar's lidar technology will allow Volvo to offer highway self-driving as an option, the company said. 

Volvo's upcoming highway self-driving system, called Highway Pilot, will be in keeping with the company's decades-long focus on safety, chief technology officer Henrik Green said, as well as a big step toward fully self-driving vehicles. 

"Autonomous drive has the potential to be one of the most lifesaving technologies in history, if introduced responsibly and safely," Green said. "Providing our future cars with the vision they require to make safe decisions is an important step in that direction."

The sensor appears as a low bump above the vehicle's windshield.

Luminar's lidar sensors will be integrated into the roofs of certain Volvo models starting in 2022. Image source: Volvo Cars.

Lidar sensors use invisible laser beams to create a highly detailed moment-to-moment map of a car's surroundings. Most of the self-driving systems under development now use those moment-to-moment lidar images to determine the vehicle's precise location by comparing them to a 3D reference map.

Volvo Cars, owned by Chinese automaker Geely (OTC:GELY.F), is incorporating Luminar's technology into the modular vehicle architecture that will serve as the base of its next-generation vehicles, starting in 2022. Luminar's lidar unit will be integrated into the roof of vehicles ordered with the Highway Pilot option.

Volvo and Luminar are also exploring the possibility of adding lidar sensing to upcoming advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS) that fall short of self-driving. It's possible that all new Volvos based on the upcoming architecture could be built with Luminar's lidar as a standard feature, the automaker said.