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Essential technology: Advanced safety systems

Advanced safety systems will allow cars of the future to guarantee their occupants against death or injury from road accidents.

Research work on next-generation life-saving equipment is underway as part of a Swedish government plan to achieve zero road fatalities and Volvo is aiming to offer the ultimate in crash protection in 10 years.

“No one should suffer from accidents in the cars we produce after 2020 and we are making a strong effort to achieve that goal. We will not be able to reach our target without the support of others.

“We need to know how the authorities intend to treat the future from an environmental perspective and what sort of roads our cars will be used on. The co-operation of all parties is vital to the success of injury-free travel in the future,” said Jan Ivarsson, head of Volvo Car Corporation’s safety strategy.

A pacesetter in safer motoring for the last half century, Volvo has joined forces with the Swedish Road Administration on research projects aimed at improving road architecture and the nation’s road network.

“No one should suffer accidents in the
cars we produce after 2020”

Suggestions emerging will be analysed by experts supported by the country’s universities and could lead to significant changes.

Ivarsson said: “Our clear view of the future is to design cars that just do not crash and the 2020 deadline represents the perspective we have for the near-term.

Stakeholder support

“There’s no doubt this is a major challenge for us, but it is our clear view of the future. Everything is possible if other stakeholders join us with a common view of the future.”

According to Ivarsson, the XC60 SUV represents the starting point of the new super-safe technology the company aims to develop. Fitted with the City Safety equipment package, it is claimed to be the safest Volvo model so far.

“This equipment will assist you in avoiding a collision. It will mitigate in some other situations and reduce the forces involved in crash situations. It is our first step.

“For the moment, City Safety operates in a range of speeds that relate to city driving. For the future, we are looking to address a wider range of road conditions and speeds.

“Our basic idea is to support the people in the car with what I would call good properties and for this you need good restraint systems and a good safety cage. Then we need to support the driver, initially with good information that starts up as soon as he begins to drive the car.

“Our aim is to provide good information on the choice of roads, the destination and traffic intensity – the object of our work is for the driver not to be over-stressed. Of course, in the end it all comes down to taking over from the driver when a crash becomes inevitable. 

“I can’t be specific about the technology that is likely to be involved by Volvo, but we are investigating cameras, lasers, radar and other types of support technology. In the near future, we plan to introduce safety technologies that make it possible to detect and auto-brake for pedestrians and even auto-steer away from oncoming cars,” he said.

He believes “considerable” safety potential exists in creating communications between cars and infrastructure arrangements that would allow cars to warn each other of traffic jams or poor road conditions.

Speaking the same language

“Infrastructure sensors could also warn drivers of people or animals crossing the road, but all this requires that the vehicles speak the same ‘language’ regardless of brand, so international standards need to be created.

“As well as challenging ourselves, our new vision also challenges the automotive industry and governments. Safe traffic has three main stakeholders – manufacturers, motorists and the authorities. Creative co-operation between road authorities and the automotive industry is vital for us to achieve solutions that make a big difference,” said Ivarsson.

Experts pooling resources

Each year around 1.2 million people die and more than 50 million are injured in traffic accidents, according to the World Health Organisation – and officials say both figures will rise if no action is taken.

Since 1970, Volvo has been studying accidents and has built up a database with information on more than 36,000 crashes.

More than 100 people work in Volvo’s Swedish safety centre and pool their resources with hundreds of engineering specialists in universities and supplier companies. 

But the need to pinpoint high-tech solutions to help avoid accidents has led to fresh investigations of driving scenarios, including driver behaviour. 

“With increasingly advanced technology, we can design cars that help the driver avoid accidents,” said head of safety strategy Jan Ivarsson.

Now the company that invented the three-point safety belt and introduced it as standard equipment half a century ago has launched a new strategy that includes a broader view of safety than the traditional focus on accidents.

“We follow the principle that the driver should always be in command and that the intelligence of the car should support him,” said Ivarsson.

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