It sounds like an ambitious effort, possibly even unthinkable: Create a ‘death-proof’ car by the year 2020? If any automaker has the technological bandwidth to accomplish this laudable goal, however, it’s Volvo.
The Swedish car company, long known for safety innovation, has been working toward accident-free vehicles for some time. Now they’ve publicly stated again (the company originally pledged in 2008 to have a car with no injuries or fatalities by 2020) they hope to create a car that’s ‘death-proof’ by 2020. To get there, they’ll make use of these eight technologies (plus a few more not yet announced).
In October 2015, Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson stated that the company “will accept full liability” for any accidents that happen while Volvo vehicles are in autonomous mode.
Adaptive Cruise Control – This technology works well in stop-and-go commuter traffic and is already available on the 2016 Volvo XC90 SUV. Interestingly, not a single person in the United States has died in a Volvo XC90 in the last four years and the new model was just awarded Top Safety Pick Plus designation by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Adaptive cruise control is a subset to autonomous driving technology, something that’s a required element of a total system to enable driverless vehicles to work effectively. With adaptive cruise control, drivers can set a maximum speed at which the vehicle will travel and the vehicle drives itself while simultaneously maintaining a safe distance from other cars on the road. The system makes use of sensors and radar to detect the driving environment.
Pilot Assist – This technology is another important element of driverless vehicles. It works in tandem with other technologies to keep the vehicle steering correctly and staying in the correct lane. In the event the driver does not react in time after the system identifies a potentially hazardous situation, the system first issues audio and visual clues before automatically taking over and bringing the car to a complete stop if the driver fails to respond.
First introduced on the 2016 Volvo XC90, the second-generation of Pilot Assist, standard on the all-new 2016 Volvo S90 sedan, allows the vehicle to accelerate, decelerate, come to a complete stop in road conditions without clear lane markings at speeds up to 80 mph – without the need for a pilot car. The Volvo S90 will be the first car in the U.S. to make semi-autonomous technology standard.
Collision Avoidance – Volvo has developed an auto-braking system that automatically engages when the driver tries to make a left or right turn in front of oncoming traffic. This system will turn on to help avoid what it determines to be an imminent collision. Safety regulators in the U.S. have identified collision avoidance features as especially helpful in preventing motor vehicle accidents and reducing severity of crashes that do occur.
Cross Traffic Alert – In order to tackle blind spots, radar units are placed inside each corner of the rear bumper. This enables the vehicle to detect not only approaching vehicles, but also pedestrians and cyclists and the system issues both an audio and a visual warning to the driver on the vehicle’s center screen.
Cyclist Detection – The next generation of Volvo vehicles will use cameras and radar to help detect cyclists, moving pedestrians and parked cars. Radar, placed inside the car’s grill, determines moving objects and their proximity to the vehicle. A camera, fitted into the back of the car’s rearview mirror, identifies what those objects are. In the event a cyclist swerves or moves unexpectedly into the lane of the car, the vehicle is programmed to automatically apply the brakes.
Large Animal Detection – The newest version of the Volvo S90 sports sedan has large animal detection and auto-braking. The system, which also works in the dark, is able to detect when moose, elk or deer walk in front of the car, alerts the driver and provides brake support to avoid a collision.
Pedestrian Airbags – The world’s first vehicle to feature a passenger airbag was thefive-door hatchback, debuting at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show. For now, the V40 is only sold overseas, but the pedestrian detection system will gain wider availability in the coming years, including Volvo vehicles sold here. One of the main causes of death in pedestrian impacts with vehicles is head injury. According to Mashable, roughly 12% of such deaths occur in the U.S., and more in Europe.
Pedestrian Detection – The Swedish automaker’s pedestrian detection system is already on the Volvo V40 model sold overseas and will soon be on other Volvos sold in the U.S. The cameras and sensors in the pedestrian detection system can see in the dark and thus are able to detect human forms that wander into the path of the vehicle. The City Safety technology system alerts the driver and can automatically stop if the driver doesn’t act in time.
Volvo Drive-Me Project Begins in 2017
Volvo has big plans for testing and further developing technologies to enable self-driving cars. The Drive-Me project in 2017 will be the world’s first large-scale, long-term trial of autonomous vehicles. It will make 100 autonomous cars available to consumers in Gothenburg, Sweden to test during everyday driving conditions on some of the most popular commuter routes. The test, using the Volvo XC90, will be the first use of IntelliSafe Auto Pilot (first previewed in Concept 26).