VOLVO is promising that by 2020, no one in their right minds will be killed or seriously injured by one of its new cars.
The Swedish company, which has built its reputation on safety, says a world where nobody dies in car accidents is closer than most people think.
Fatality-free vehicles are not unprecedented. In fact, there already are some, and they’re not just Volvos. According to data from the US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there are nine vehicle models — including the Volvo XC90 (below. Main pic shows the SC90 sedan) — in which no one in the United States has died in at least four years.
Volvo maintains that the solution to a crash-free world lies in self-driving cars, but a host of high-tech safety features are making drivers safer – and better – in the meantime.
There is one proviso though. The company says it won’t be liable for acts of stupidity or car crashes in which anyone is deliberately attempting to hurt themselves.
“If you meet Swedish engineers, they’re pretty genuine,” Lex Kerssemakers, CEO of Volvo Cars North America told CNN. “They don’t say things when they don’t believe in it.”
The last decade has seen dramatic development by various automakers in the field of collision-avoidance technology.
Blind-spot detectors now watch for oncoming vehicles, adaptive cruise controls reduce speed based on cars ahead, and camera systems warn drivers when they drift out of their lanes. Detectors can even pick up on a drowsy driver’s subtle changes in behaviour to indicate it’s time for a break.
“The long term vision is that cars shouldn’t crash,” Volvo spokesman Jim Trainor told the Daily Mail.
The key to making new safety features desirable to drivers is ensuring that they assist rather than irritate, Trainor said.
Sweden-based Volvo, now owned by Chinese conglomerate, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, has announced it aims to put 100 of its autonomous vehicles on roads as soon as 2017.
Members of the public will be put in the driving seats of production-ready cars to test the Drive Me system, which the company claims can cope with “even the most complicated scenarios”.
The trial is set to take place on selected roads in Gothenburg, Sweden and is a collaboration between the auto manufacturer, transport authorities and critically, legislators.
“If it false brakes too often, people get frustrated and they turn the system off,” Trainor said.
“We need to calibrate the system so it gives the driver every last possible moment to take action.”
Volvo is also developing systems that reduce injuries when crashes are inescapable.
Among these is a rear impact mitigation system which senses if a car is approaching too quickly and preconditions the interior for impact by tightening seatbelts and engaging brakes.
“With the development of full autonomy we are going to push the limits of automotive safety,” Volvo safety engineer Erik Coelingh told CNN. “Because if you make a fully autonomous vehicle you have to think through everything that potentially can happen with a car.”
Initially reserved for high-end luxury vehicles, the cost of safety technology is falling and finding its way into lower-priced automobiles.
The new Ford Fusion, for instance, contains 20 driver-assistance technologies including a pedestrian-detection system and a steering wheel that vibrates if a driver begins drifting from the lane.
Last year, GM unveiled a new rear-door monitor in its GMC Acadia crossover that reminds drivers to check the back seat for children before leaving the car. The safety feature will eventually be included in all of its models.
Meanwhile Toyota recently introduced a new suite of features called Safety Sense which will be offered on nearly all models by 2017. When first introduced on Lexus vehicles it cost an additional US$6,000 (RM25,200). Toyota has now managed to bring the price down to $300 to $630, spokesman Mike Kroll said.