Volvo continues its quest for crash-free future

Volvo continues its quest for crash-free future

According to Jan Ivarsson, head of safety strategy at Volvo Cars, the company's aim is to come so close to zero that one single car accident is defined as a disaster, not an acceptable part of daily life.

Volvo has always aimed to make every new car model safer than the previous one, although in recent years the focus has shifted from protection to prevention, with new technology cars such as Collision Warning with Auto Brake and City Safety delivering warning and assistance in order to avoid or at least mitigate an accident.

According to Ivarsson, Volvo's statistics show that the company has reduced the number of severe injuries by approximately 50% since the 1960s.

Volvo Cars' strategy includes a broader view of safety than the traditional focus on accidents, with safety aspects divided into five phases:

  • Normal driving – the driver is well informed and can stay alert.
  • Conflict – technology helps the driver to handle the difficult situation.
  • Avoidance – the car acts automatically to avoid a collision if the driver fails to react.
  • Damage reduction – the car's safety systems help to reduce the crash energy in order to minimize the effect on the occupants.
  • After collision – the car automatically calls for assistance and facilitates the rescue work.

Ivarsson points out that the main challenge is to keep the driver in normal driving mode, or deal with potential issues and help him back to normal driving mode if a critical situation occurs.

Intelligent warning and braking technologies: Modern Volvos can be equipped with a number of intelligent technologies that detect potential dangers and help the driver deal with them – either through a warning or, if necessary, by automatic braking.

Ivarsson says that challenge isn't in making the car brake automatically, but in knowing when to brake. The technology must be reliable to ensure the automatic system doesn't create a more dangerous situation that the one you want to prevent.

Volvo has already introduced a number of preventive systems that detect moving and stationary vehicles in front of the car, and next year will launch a new feature that detects pedestrians.

Tomorrow's cars must be able to communicate and exchange information with each other (V2V) and with the infrastructure (V2I). The major challenge in making this scenario a reality is finding a common language for the communication. Volvo believes that the key is to use systems that are already available for other purposes.

"The air around us is already charged with communication, most of it used for pleasure or convenience," says Ivarsson. "Adding traffic safety communication to this existing architecture is a far more sensible route than trying to invent and agree on a completely new ‘language' for communicating in the traffic environment."

The quest for an accident free future also includes close co-operation with other players, and Volvo Cars is working with the Swedish Road Administration to promote the V2I concept.

Volvo is also part of the European Field Operational Tests (euroFOT) project, and has equipped about 100 Volvo V70 and XC70 cars with technology to monitor driver behaviour: cameras that record the driver's head and eye movements, a data logger that records the information from the safety features in the car, and cameras that film the driver's view of the road. The signals and videos are saved on a hard disk to enable researchers to analyse the driver's head and eye movement patterns, which will help Volvo to better understand the interaction between driver, car and the traffic environment.

"A couple of years ago, we introduced a basic information management feature – IDIS – that, for instance, blocks incoming phone calls when the driving demands full attention," says Ivarsson. "Our aim is to refine the technology so it can manage information to fit each driving situation."

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