In a recent ambitious press release, the Sweden-based automaker Volvo announced its goal of no deaths or serious injuries in its new vehicles after 2020. Further, it anticipates a time when no Volvos are involved in any crashes, period. To that aim, Volvo is working on three new high-tech safety solutions.
Volvo take on distracted driving
According to the press release, three studies from independent sources have all found that motorists spend 25 to 30 percent of their drive time multi-tasking with electronic media and other distractions. The automaker, proud of its superior safety record, is taking on the problem with technological solutions, since educational ones seem to be having little affect.
Jan Ivarsson, Senior Manager Safety Strategy & Requirements at Volvo, said:
“In the modern mobile society we bring our social lives with us wherever we go. The car is no exception. For us it’s quite simply a matter of creating technology that provides the driver with the right support at all times. We have a number of research projects with the aim to develop new technologies for future Volvo models.”
Three areas of concern
Volvo is developing and testing technologies that address traffic safety issues in three main areas:
(1) Autonomous driving, or keeping the vehicle in its lane.
(2) Intersection support, because about 20 percent of all crashes occur at intersections.
(3) Animal detection because, in the U.S., about 200 people are killed each year in animal-related crashes. Those numbers are much higher in Sweden, Canada and other nations.
Staying inside the lines
The automaker’s autonomous driving technology uses cameras and radar to help keep a vehicle in its lane.
Fredrik Lundholm, Function Developer at Volvo, said:
“Driving in slow queues is a monotonous and boring part of many drivers’ everyday lives. Thanks to technology for autonomous driving, the car can help the driver comfortably and safely follow the vehicle in front.”
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The technology will allow vehicles to follow those in front of it, especially in dense, slow moving traffic. If the driver in the lead swerves to avoid an obstacle, the Volvo behind will automatically swerve also.
The intersection support system observes the traffic patterns at an intersection and reacts appropriately if it detects a collision is imminent.
Mattias Brännström, the safety technology expert who designed the system, said:
“When the light turns green, one car after another turns left. Suddenly, an oncoming car drives through the red light and creates an immediate danger. In this situation, the turning car automatically brakes to avoid a collision.”
Volvo explains that its wildlife detection system is an upgrade of one designed to locate and avoid pedestrians. The trick, the automaker says, is to slow the vehicle down to 50 m.p.h or slower when an animal is detected. Then the vehicle’s other safety measures are effective, and the chance of serious injuries become very low, says Volvo.
The task of cataloging and recognizing animal patterns is an extremely complex one. Andreas Eidehall, Technical Expert of Active Safety, explains:
“There is a huge challenge in collecting data that helps us understand how we can detect what nature has done its best to conceal. The focus is on large animals, since they cause the most damage and the most severe injuries. We have worked with elk and large stags, but have now also included horses and cattle.”
Volvo has long prided itself on its safety record. This week’s press release helps make up for the blow its reputation suffered earlier this month when it was fined $1.5 million by federal safety regulators for not conducting seven separate recalls in a timely manner.