For immediate release
GÖTEBORG (September 22, 2005) – The subject of safety has defined and differentiated Volvo since it was founded in 1927. Now, safety engineers at Volvo Car Corporation are moving the company into the “Third Age of Automotive Safety” with a concrete vision to further enhance automotive safety and leading-edge technology.
The Third Age of Automotive Safety builds on Volvo Cars’ existing, industry-leading passive and active safety technologies. The company plans to equip its vehicles with highly sophisticated systems that not only enhance the driver’s physical perception of the road, but can even take over direct control of the car in critical situations where a driver is not responding sufficiently fast enough to avoid an emerging collision.
“The motoring environment grows ever more complex, with more and more things fighting for a driver’s attention, both outside and inside their cars, putting extra pressure on their ability to cope with what’s happening around them,” says Jan Ivarsson, safety, strategy and requirements manager at Volvo Cars. He believes the only safe way forward is to provide “sophisticated, advanced, automated driver support programs in addition to Volvo Cars’ traditional passive and active safety approach.”
Driver support programs
For Volvo Cars there is nothing remotely ‘Big Brother’ about its approach. Jan Ivarsson notes that several industries have for many years used computerized systems to negate the chance of natural human error causing a disaster, including the nuclear power and airline industries.
“A commercial pilot, responsible for the lives of hundreds of passengers, is supported by a massive array of systems that fly the plane largely automatically, taking into account weather, traffic and other conditions, and able to land the aircraft even in dense fog – something usually beyond the ability of a human,” says Jan Ivarsson. “Our emerging safety thinking at Volvo Cars is about putting natural human abilities at the centre of our research and develop systems designed to increase safety and ensure drivers can enjoy their motoring experience. Over the years we have provided significant passive and active safety systems, but now our challenge is to deliver software and hardware that serve as a sympathetic ‘co-driver’ for the motorist. Our vision contemplates creating a partnership between the human driver and the vehicle.”
Jan Ivarsson added that Volvo Cars will build upon today’s existing fully functional systems such as its Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), adaptive cruise control, radar-based collision warning system, and the IDIS Intelligent Driver Information System. The European IDIS system continuously monitors steering wheel movement, turn signal indicators and degree of braking to delay incoming phone calls or SMS messages during intense activity such as overtaking or braking.
Volvo Cars safety research shows that driver error is a major contributor to collisions and the company believes the answer is to provide driver alert functions designed to reduce information overload. The company is developing technologies that can anticipate an upcoming problem and help solve it, either by alerting the driver or, in the ultimate case, by temporarily taking over control of the vehicle and reacting faster than a normal human could.
The Volvo Cars’ Driver Alert™ system, now in the final phase of development, uses cameras and radar systems with software designed to identify moving or stationary objects posing a potential threat to the vehicle. Initially alerting a driver using warning lights and sounds to the upcoming danger, the Volvo Cars system steps-in to help reduce impact severity using brake support and automatic brake activation.
The Driver Alert system can also monitor a car’s path between the lane markers on a highway. If the car detects growing aberration in the way the car is being handled it sends a warning to the driver that he or she may be getting drowsy. The Volvo Cars solution is unique because, unlike existing systems that measure eyelid movement, its system can issue a warning well in advance of sleep on-set.
According to the National Health and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 1,500 people are killed and over 70,000 are injured every year from approximately 100,000 fatigue-related vehicle collisions. A survey by the National Sleep Foundation of America from 1998, entitled “Omnibus Sleep In America”, some 23 per cent of people admitted to falling asleep at the driving wheel!
New Volvo models currently in the launch pipeline, such as the S80 and V70 replacements, will come equipped with the company’s first generation ‘co-driver’ technology.
City proof cars
Volvo Cars’ futuristic safety vision also encompasses helping owners ‘city-proof’ their vehicles by reducing the risks of low speed collisions. Volvo Cars believes vehicles equipped with forward-and rearward-facing systems would significantly reduce injuries caused during these low speed collisions. Volvo Cars’ research shows that 88 per cent of all collisions occur at speeds up to 40 km/h (25 mph). Apart from reducing physical damage to vehicles, new technology would reduce the impact severity and the risk of whiplash injuries for passengers and drivers, both in the owner’s Volvo vehicle and in the vehicle being struck.
“Our ‘co-driver’ technology approach is the umbrella for Volvo Cars’ new human ability safety approach and vision for the year 2020,” says Jan Ivarsson. “From the safety perspective, our sustainable mobility moves are about developing the relationship between car, driver and the traffic environment into an unthreatening, dynamic, exhilarating and safe union making everyday motoring enjoyable.”
Volvo Cars of Canada Ltd. is part of the Volvo Car Corporation of Göteborg, Sweden. The company provides marketing, sales, parts, service, technology and training support to the 43 Volvo automobile retailers across the country. The company’s product range includes the flagship S80 luxury sedan, the versatile V70 wagon, the S60 sports sedan, and the completely redesigned S40 sports sedan and V50 sportswagon. For buyers looking for more rugged versatility, the Volvo XC-line of vehicles that includes the XC70 and the award-winning XC90 sport utility vehicle.
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