Volvo is making bold claims about the future safety capabilities of its cars – starting with the ‘short-term’ target that no-one will be killed or injured in a new Volvo car by 2020.
The move towards this has already begun – firstly with the introduction in 2008 of the City Safety automatic braking system, standard on the , and now with the snappily entitled ‘Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake and Pedestrian Safety’, which debuts with the all-new Volvo S60 in 2010. See our future cars report for more.
Looking further into the future, Volvo plans even greater focus on preventing accidents altogether while also helping to ensure that a crashed Volvo provides the best possible protection for its occupants.
Technology being investigated here includes automatic collision avoidance – perhaps enabled by car-to-car communication coordinating the vehicles’ response – crash energy reduction through the onboard safety systems, and the function to automatically call the emergency services should an accident happen.
Through all of this, Volvo’s main aim is to keep the driver in control and as safe as possible for as much of the time as possible – in what the company calls ‘normal driving’ mode. Extensive field testing in real-life situations will make sure the automatic systems don’t make dangerous situations more difficult to deal with. This testing has already begun.
Collision warning system
Enough of the forward thinking – the Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake and Pedestrian Safety system is coming next year. So what does it do, and how does it work?
It is, essentially, an evolution of City Safety, already standard on the . City Safety uses radar and a camera to analyse the movements of vehicles ahead; should they stop or slow and the driver of the Volvo fail to respond, it is capable of braking the car to a complete halt. At speeds up to 18mph it can potentially avoid a collision altogether. It is designed for use in stop-start city traffic.
The new Collision Warning system uses a higher resolution camera and radar with a larger field of vision, allowing it to start accounting for pedestrians as well as cars. The radar tracks the movement of objects and the camera works out what they are.
Volvo claims the system can spot a pedestrian stepping off the pavement in front of the car, will warn the driver this has happened, and if no action is apparent, utilises the full power of the brakes by itself. At speeds of up to 18mph it can avoid a collision altogether; beyond that the slower the car is moving when it hits the pedestrian, the less damage it will do.
A pedestrian is 85% more likely to be killed at 31mph than 15mph.
The warning to the driver is designed to mimic brake lights, hopefully triggering an instinctive response. Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake and Pedestrian Safety also acts to reduce or avoid rear-end collisions with cars, assisted by its ability to deploy the full braking power of the vehicle, rather than the 50% of previous systems.
‘Giant step forward’
According to Volvo safety expert Thomas Broberg, Volvo has been working on this safety technology for 10 years.
Broberg explains: ‘The previous stages were developed to help the driver avoid collisions with other vehicles. Now we are taking a giant step forward with a function that also boosts safety for unprotected road-users. What is more, we are advancing from 50% to full automatic braking power. To our knowledge, none of our competitors have made such progress in this area.’