Volvo Car Corporation: Moving into the Third Age of safety
The issue of safety has defined and differentiated Volvo Cars since its start. Now its safety engineers are moving into the Third Age of automotive safety with cutting edge solutions and visions to further enhance automotive safety today long into tomorrow.
Volvo Cars is moving into the Third Age of automotive safety with visionary ideas that build on its earlier innovative passive and active safety approaches to deliver new ‘intelligent’ solutions designed to neutralize risks of driver error while enhancing motoring enjoyment.
Signaling how it intends to build upon the safety ethos that has defined and differentiated its vehicles since 1927, Volvo Cars safety engineers are fast-forwarding development of visions geared to help drivers deal with an ever more complex motoring environment. Moving beyond Volvo Cars already lavish safety gear offering, from historical deformation zones and safety cages through air cushions and belts to dynamic stability and control, the engineers are pursuing a new safety paradigm to enhance the carmakers traditional approach to protecting and celebrating life.
“The motoring environment grows ever more complex, with more and more things fighting for a drivers 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.
New safety paradigm
The Volvo Cars senior safety expert says the company’s new safety paradigm builds on the belief humans are already suffering information overload in our intense traffic environments and the only way forward is to provide “sophisticated, advanced automated driver support programs in addition to Volvo’s traditional passive and active safety approach”.
That conviction is supported by statistics from the USA indicating the fallibility of humans in handling the stress of the day-to-day traffic environment. According to the National Health and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) approximately 1,500 people are killed and over 70,000 are injured yearly in around 100,000 fatigue related accidents. And in a survey by the National Sleep Foundation of America from 1998, entitled “Omnibus Sleep In America”, some 23 percent of people admitted they had fallen asleep at the driving wheel!
The visionary answer for Volvo Cars is to equip its vehicles with highly sophisticated ‘intelligent’ systems that not only enhance the physical perception of drivers, 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 crisis.
For Volvo Cars there is nothing remotely ‘Big Brother’ about such an approach. Jan Ivarsson notes that several industries have for many years used intelligent, 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 intelligent 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 evolving solutions, designed not only to increase safety but also to ensure drivers can enjoy their motoring experience. Over the years we have provided significant passive and active safety, but our challenge now is to deliver software and hardware approaches that serve as a sympathetic ‘co-driver’ for the motorist.”
Volvo Car’s current premium safety mobility strategy builds on the recognition that the emerging safety focus should not just be on the physical ability of a car to protect those traveling in it in the event of a collision, but also increasingly on intelligent systems that enhance or can over-ride a driver’s ability to handle a potential crisis.
“Our vision contemplates creating a partnership between the human driver and the vehicle,” said Jan Ivarsson.
Volvo Cars research shows driver error is the major contributor to collisions. Volvo Cars believes the answer is to provide driver alert functions designed to reduce overload by providing 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.
Volvo Cars is fast-forwarding its research and development of ‘clever’ autos that are equipped with the technology to help eliminate human error or respond to potentially dangerous situations much faster than a normal human. The company already has ‘thinking systems’ in the pipeline able to inter-relate with external radar or sonar-based traffic monitoring systems that can issue a collision warning at an intersection, for example.
The Volvo Car’s Driver Alert™ system, now in the final phase of development, monitors 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, the system can issue a warning well in advance of sleep on-set.
New Volvo models currently in the launch pipeline, such as the S80 and the V70 replacement will come already equipped with first generation ‘co-driver’ technology.
Tomorrow’s Volvo Cars such as the V70 will be equipped with safety and well-being solutions interfacing cameras and radar with ‘intelligent’ software to identify moving or stationary objects posing a potential threat. Initially alerting a driver using warning lights and sounds to the upcoming danger of hitting another vehicle ahead, the Volvo Cars system steps-in to help reduce the impact severity using brake support and automatic brake activation.
Pushing the envelope
“We are intent on phasing in our new driver support technologies as they become available as we push the envelope to reach our ultimate vision of someone driving one of our cars in 2020 being supported like an airline pilot is today,” says Jan Ivarsson.
He added that Volvo Cars will build upon today’s existing fully functional systems such as its BLIS Blind Spot Information System, adaptive cruise control, radar-based collision warning system, and the IDIS Intelligent Driver Information System. IDIS 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.
City proof cars
Volvo Cars 2020 safety vision also encompasses helping owners ‘city-proof’ their vehicles by reducing the risks or potential consequences of low speed forward collisions.
Volvo Cars believes its vehicles equipped with forward and rearward facing systems would significantly reduce injuries, especially at speeds up to 25mph when almost 88 percent of all the accidents in Volvo Cars extensive database occur. Apart from reducing physical damage to vehicles, ‘intelligent’ technology to reduce impact severity also cuts the risk of whiplash injuries for passengers and driver alike, both in your own vehicle and in the one being struck.
“Our ‘co-driver’ technology approach is the umbrella for Volvo Cars’ new human ability centred safety approach and vision for 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 understands that the road forward in a future as close as 2020 demands building upon a holistic strategy of providing safe, environmental and premium personal sustainable mobility solutions.
“Volvo Cars is committed to work towards and forge the necessary partnerships required to overcome the many political, economic, social and behavioral barriers to achieving sustainable mobility,” says Lex Kersemakers, Senior Vice President, Brand, Business and Product Strategy at Volvo Cars.
“Our visionary strategy for 2020 is to innovate and provide safety, design and environmental technology and forge closer partnerships with all the actors in our global industry on issues from safety and infrastructure to the environment in order to ensure everyone can benefit from sustainable mobility.”