Volvo Car Corporation’s short-term target is that no one will be killed or injured in a new Volvo car by 2020 the company said today.
“Zero is the one and only solution for us. As the leader in car safety we can’t accept that people are killed or injured just because they want to transport themselves from A to B,” says Jan Ivarsson, head of Safety Strategy at Volvo Cars. “Our aim is to come so close to zero that one single car accident is defined as a disaster, not an acceptable part of our daily lives.”
If indeed no one is killed or injured in a new Volvo by 2020, it would be a breakthrough in automotive safety. The laws of physics work mightily against such a goal as disparities in vehicle size or high-speed impacts involve energy levels that the human body cannot survive.
Nonetheless, Volvo claims that it has been working towards zero ever since the company was founded in 1927. The aim has always been to make every new car model safer than the previous one.
In recent years, the focus at most auto companies has moved from protection to prevention, a way around the Newtonian F=MA issue. New, albeit expensive, technologies such as collision warning and automatic braking systems or lane wandering detection are now in production.
Volvo says its strategy includes a broader view of safety than the traditional focus on accidents. The safety experts apply a holistic perspective where the safety aspects can be 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.
The goal and challenge is to keep the driver in the normal driving mode. To reach Volvo’s zero vision, Volvo has to deal with most of the potential issues at this stage, and help the driver back to “normal” if a critical situation occurs.
Here’s where intelligent warning and braking technologies can help.
Late-model Volvos can be equipped with a number of devices that detect potential dangers and help the driver deal with them – either through a warning or, if necessary, by automatic braking.
“When you introduce an automatic system you have to make sure that you don’t create a more dangerous situation than the one you want to prevent. It is not hard to make the car brake automatically. The challenge is to know when it must brake. The detection technology must be reliable,” says Jan Ivarsson.
Volvo has already introduced a number of preventive systems that detect moving and stationary vehicles in front of the car and, next year, Volvo will offer customers a new feature that detects pedestrians.