RAC Cars News


Life Saving Volvos

By raccars Published

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Even for a brand known for its stellar safety record, it's a bold claim – that no-one will by killed in a new Volvo by 2020. Nonetheless, this is the latest claim by the pioneering Swedish automaker.

With 1.3 million annual road deaths, passenger and pedestrian safety measures are a priority for car manufacturers, who are constantly looking for ways to make cars stronger. However at the same time, the EU is pressing for lower emissions vehicles, obliging manufacturers to make their cars ever lighter to be able to comply with regulations.

Volvo has found a work around solution. Rather than strengthening its cars further, the Swedish manufacturer plans instead to reduce the likelihood of crashing. Intelligent cars is not a new idea, with self driving vehicles currently the subject of serious amounts of research, of which Volvo is a leading proponent. However the technology is still very much in its infancy. While the engineering principles have been developed, there are still a huge number of legislative and infrastructure problems to surmount.

Volvo has succeeded in building vehicles that steer and park themselves and are capable of avoiding obstacles, controlled via a smartphone app. It claims drivers are the most fallible component of a car and therefore once autonomous driving development has come to fulfillment, roads will be much safer.

Elements of the new technology will be seen in the next XC90 but mass production use is probably still a decade away. Volvo is optimistic that the process will be affordable, as it is working on integrating the new equipment into existing hardware.

Night time pedestrian detection, for example, will be supplied by a camera already used by the car for other purposes. Most other manufacturers' systems require the fitting of an extra infra red camera, which results in a significant increase in cost. Volvo's pedestrian detection technology will be installed in 2014's new Volvo XC90 and not only will it function in both bright, sunny conditions and on dark roads, but this will be the first of its kind to integrate automatic braking. It can detect pedestrians and cyclists and will emit a warning before engaging the brakes.

Similarly, road departure incidents account for 25% of accidents, two thirds of which involve speeds in excess of 43mph. The new technology constantly scans the roadside and will apply an automatic correction if it senses drivers veering towards the verge or a barrier.

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