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Volvo Cars sets pace in European development of ‘intelligent cars’



Volvo Car Corporation has always harboured big ambitions to make the motoring experience safer. Now the Swedish car company is leading the way in providing sophisticated wireless in-car services geared to ensure a Volvo offers even more safety and peace-of-mind.


Motoring as we know it is on the verge of a revolutionary change as Volvo Cars’ engineers blend modern information and telecommunication technologies to revitalize our total driving experience by offering cars with their own heart and brain.


Volvo Cars is currently launching several optional telematics-based wireless services in a number of its high-end models -- further enhancing safety, security and connectivity, and providing drivers increased peace-of-mind.


Wireless communication


Volvo’s telematics approach is about designing wireless communication products into cars. Applications to help avoid delays and congestion, speed faster assistance after an accident or breakdown, track a stolen vehicle, or download relevant information from the Internet when needed.


“Today’s basic navigation functions on small computer screens are only the first steps towards where Volvo is heading with its intelligent car concepts,” says Niklas Wahlberg, head of telematics at Volvo Car Corporation, Gothenburg, Sweden.


Initially, Volvo is pacing the launch of emergency and incident management related services. Future advanced vehicle safety systems will include collision avoidance, pre-crash restraint deployment and even vision enhancement systems to warn of hazards ahead.


“Volvo’s dashboard in specific 2003 models now incorporates an automatic collision ‘mayday’ system that determines the severity of a crash and automatically calls for help. Unique to Volvo, the system has a backup battery and antenna located in the dashboard should the main battery and antenna be damaged so badly an alert cannot be transmitted.”


Safety beyond airbags


Niklas Wahlberg underlines that “Volvo’s telematics involvement has grown from a desire to add safety and security applications beyond the steel cage and air bags”. Hence, the new Volvo ‘On Call’ system notifies response-centre operators of accidents even when an airbag has not been triggered, as well as tracking a stolen car. The system has already been launched in Sweden and the United States, and will be rolled out into Europe commencing in 2003.


But this, predicts Niklas Wahlberg, is just the beginning:


“Telematics is a lifestyle ‘enabler’ with the potential to change our lives as much as did the Internet and cell phone.


“Our ambition is to be a major and innovative player in bringing Volvo drivers telematics benefits adding real life-style value. It is people’s needs that are steering our development of the intelligent car.”


Although Volvo’s first focus is on improved emergency and incident management services, Niklas Wahlberg stresses its telematics solutions will positively impact other areas too, helping drivers avoid delays and congestion, thereby reducing fuel use and pollution.



Vast potential


The Volvo engineer says the potential of the revolution is vast. With cars increasingly using electronics, Volvo’s telematics could enable 24 hour servicing through online monitoring of component performance and even downloading of software to fix problems. On the infotainment front, telematics may one day allow downloading music directly from the Internet into car audio systems, making CD and tape things of the past.


“Telematics is still in its infancy, but Volvo is moving fast into the future of in-car consumer electronics that will turn our cars into true communications centers,” says Niklas Wahlberg.


“For Volvo, telematics is a technology building block enabling the evolution of improved customer services. Ultimately, this may drive carmakers from being product-driven to service-driven, and that’s a whole new business model!”


“Volvo’s latest cars are already taking full advantage of today’s ‘smart’ technology to add new dimensions to in-car safety and we’re set up to keep pace with whatever the future has in store,” says Niklas Wahlberg.



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