If the claim that more people have died in automobile accidents than in wars is true, road safety must surely be on the top of every automaker’s list of priorities. None have taken this mantra more seriously than Volvo. Although the Swedish marque is already known for producing vehicles that score highly with regards to safety and reliability, that’s simply not good enough for them. In fact, they’ve made the very bold claim that by 2020, no one will die or be critically injured in a Volvo car.
Is that too good to be true? It might not seem as far fetched as you might think. Using sophisticated engineering techniques, Volvo is designing their new cars to accommodate four phases of safety. The model that best illustrates what they have come up so far is their new SUV, the XC90.
The first two phases – pre-collision and collision avoidance – have already been implemented in the XC90. In fact, the former is already a standard feature in many vehicles and is meant to keep the driver as attentive to the road as possible, by reducing the need to look away. The HUD (Head-Up Display) is broadcast directly onto the windshield so you need not look downwards at a monitor and smart cameras keep an eye out on your blind spots or when parking to catch any obstacles that you might miss in your field of vision. Even the infotainment system is designed to be as easy to navigate as possible with minimal browsing through menus so you won’t be too distracted trying to adjust the music or air-conditioning.
During the second phase, the car’s automated systems will take over to reduce the impact of a collision. At the current stage of development, Volvo cars can’t drive themselves but they are capable of steering you back into your lane if you drift into another or braking immediately if it detects something in the way such as another vehicle, a pedestrian or an obstacle on the road. The car does so using a network of cameras that are constantly monitoring the road around you. The other two phases are collision and post collision; these phases rely on the car’s engineering to keep you safe.
Having studied the points of a car that usually sustain the most damage, Volvo will design their new models with heavy steel at those points for maximum structural integrity while lighter materials are used elsewhere to balance the weight.
In addition, the seats and airbags are designed to absorb energy and thereby reduce the kinetic force on your spine, which is usually where most of the injuries occur.
Just a few years away from the target date, the XC90 is already on the road and enjoying a positive safety record. But can Volvo live up to their promise of eliminating fatalities on the road by 2020? Perhaps or perhaps not but at least they’re heading in the right direction. cs